“Rational expectations” is a term commonly thrown around by economists trying to work out why people do stuff. It’s based on the idea that individuals weigh up the pros and cons of a certain action, and use that to make a decision. It’s one of the fundamental underpinnings of a free market economic model, but as this app proves in miniature, it’s also bullshit.
Am I Going Down is a pretty simple app: given your departure, destination, airline and aircraft of choice, it spits out the odds of your plane turning into a fiery wreck. It’s meant to put nervous fliers at ease, thanks to the astronomic odds (one in 5.4 million for my last transatlantic flight) of crashing.
The app, built by London-based Vanilla Pixel, uses data from accident archives and flight records from the NTSA and International Civil Aviation Organisation, among others. The statistical method seems sound, although there’s no accounting for things like rogue state-backed separatists with surface-to-air missiles.
More than just being a $1.29 novelty, though, Am I Going Down is a good case study in human irrationality. Most nervous flyers are probably dimly aware that they’re at far greater risk driving or walking or shovelling snow, but there’s something emotionally terrifying about plane crashes that captures our imagination.