In the Robert Heinlein novel Space Cadet, there’s a chapter where protagonist Matt Dodson is going through Space Academy induction testing. One test is a game:
After the test starts, a score of ‘1’ will result each time you press the lefthand button except as otherwise proved here below. Press the lefthand button whenever the red light appears provided the green light is not lighted as well except that no button should be pressed when the righthand gate is open unless all lights are out. If the righthand gate is open and the lefthand gate is closed, no score will result from pressing any button, but the lefthand button must nevertheless be pressed under these circumstances if all other conditions permit a button to be pressed before any score may be made in succeeding phases of the test. To put out the green light, press the righthand button. If the lefthand gate is not closed, no button may be pressed. If the lefthand gate is closed while the red light is lighted, do not press the lefthand button if the green light is out unless the righthand gate is open. To start the test move the starting lever from neutral all the way to the right. The test runs for two minutes from the time you move the starting lever to the right. Study these instructions, then select your own time for commencing the test. You are not permitted to ask questions of the examiner, so be sure that you understand the instructions. Make as high a score as possible.
(Who read all of that paragraph? Let’s have a show of hands. Uh-huh. I expected as much.)
The rules of this game are nearly impossible to comprehend, yet the consequences of failure are profound – getting drummed out of the Academy.
I must confess to similar feelings of anxious, overwhelmed incomprehension whenever I have dealings with insurance companies. The things they say to me, the documents they send me…none of it makes any sense.
And the consequence of getting it wrong is a medical bill that’s a few orders of magnitude larger than it could’ve been.