Last year, between the two of us we logged nearly a million airline miles. We also are life hackers – we try to figure out all the small steps we can take to make each day slightly better. We're constantly thinking about how to best use our travel time. Mostly, this means minimizing the minutes we're waiting at an airport, unless we can do something productive (such as write this book).
Minimizing the amount of unproductive time spent at an airport is a great way to demonstrate the concepts of risk and uncertainty.
First, we have to define the objective and the impact of being wrong. In this case, the objective is to spend the least amount of time at the airport while still making the flight. The impact of being wrong might vary situation to situation. Missing the 7 a.m. New York shuttle to Washington and “settling” for the 8 a.m. is different from taking the last flight out of New York for London to give an important speech the next day. If missing the London flight means missing the important speech, you'd prefer to have more buffer time at the airport – just in case. This buffer time describes well your degree of risk aversion for any given situation. The more buffer you require, the more risk averse you effectively are (in that situation).
Why do we need buffer time at the airport? (After all, as the saying goes, if you don't miss at least one flight per year, you're probably arriving too early at the airport.) ...