Inside Track



By Eric P. Harding

I like to play poker. Sometimes, I play poker at a casino … though not these days. Sometimes, I play poker at a friend’s house … but not recently. No, nowadays my poker-playing is relegated to online only.

You might be picturing me in a dimly lit room, screen illuminating my face, clicking furiously as I play multiple tables simultaneously. But no: I’ve been able to recreate what I like best about poker—the kibbitzing, the banter, the periphery—in a digital setting.

At the beginning of the pandemic, a friend introduced me to his D.C.-based poker group, which was just forming a nascent online presence. Cobbling together a few different technologies—poker platforms, video chat—we’re able to get together weekly (or more often, in some cases) across the virtual felt to talk about the vagaries of the day, commiserate over trials at work and celebrate successes, and generally have a grand old time … all while hoping our pocket aces don’t get cracked.

Over the course of this past year, this group of scalawags has become very important to me. I reach out when I haven’t seen one of them in a while. After a big winning (or losing) night, it’s not unusual to hear from half a dozen of my fellow compatriots … and after the poker talk, we turn to other matters that are on our minds. I may not have met any of these folks in person, but I’m proud to call them friends.

After the pandemic is over, the group will go back to hosting a biweekly game at one of the members’ houses. But I’ll be shocked if we don’t still have online games in the off weeks. After all, “alums” of this group who have moved away have become an important (and feared) part of the makeup, and they can’t make it to D.C. with any regularity.

I think we’ll find that the pandemic will have changed a lot of things. We’ll go back to the office … but working from home will likely become a much more regular occurrence for many places of employment. The video call may supplant the phone call for many quick check-ins. And in general, I think we’ll find that we’re more interconnected than ever before—which is a little ironic, following a period of such obvious isolation.

This issue’s features deal with the idea of interconnectedness in various ways.

In the cover feature, “Irrationally Yours,” regular author Carlos Fuentes takes us on a survey course through a series of universal logical fallacies—thought distortions that everyone falls victim to from time to time.

Our second feature this issue, “Passport for Care,” explores patient access, quality of care, and innovation in several countries throughout the world. In the course of this comparative analysis, the author—a member of the Academy’s Health Practice International Committee—finds that certain themes crop up time and time again.

In our final feature, “5G and Insurance—A Match for the Ages?” author Srivathsan Karanai Margan takes a look at how the latest wireless paradigm is expected to shake up the business landscape—including that of the insurance world—and what astute actuaries might want to bear in mind as this connectivity technology rolls out.

Thank you, as ever, for reading. If you need me, I’ll be check-raising the flop with—what else?—my suited connectors.

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