Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Schneier: We Need To Relearn How To Accept Risk

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the risk-is-our-business dept.

United States 478

An anonymous reader writes "Bruce Schneier has written an article about how our society is becoming increasingly averse to risk as we invent ways to reduce it. 'Risk tolerance is both cultural and dependent on the environment around us. As we have advanced technologically as a society, we have reduced many of the risks that have been with us for millennia. Fatal childhood diseases are things of the past, many adult diseases are curable, accidents are rarer and more survivable, buildings collapse less often, death by violence has declined considerably, and so on. All over the world — among the wealthier of us who live in peaceful Western countries — our lives have become safer.' This has led us to overestimate both the level of risk from unlikely events and also our ability to curtail it. Thus, trillions of dollars are spent and vital liberties are lost in misguided efforts to make us safer. 'We need to relearn how to recognize the trade-offs that come from risk management, especially risk from our fellow human beings. We need to relearn how to accept risk, and even embrace it, as essential to human progress and our free society. The more we expect technology to protect us from people in the same way it protects us from nature, the more we will sacrifice the very values of our society in futile attempts to achieve this security.'"

cancel ×

478 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Diminishing returns (5, Insightful)

qbast (1265706) | about a year ago | (#44754431)

Mitigate biggest risk and immediately something else becomes biggest. At some points you have to stop because every next risk is smaller and more has to be sacrificed for smaller piece of safety.

Re:Diminishing returns (0)

hihihihi (940800) | about a year ago | (#44754457)

well, that or just go offshore the risky adventures to those less affluent (aka Human Resource Rich) countries and societies...

Re:Diminishing returns (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44754523)

Please, minister. The current term is HRRCs... that or TLACs.

Re:Diminishing returns (5, Interesting)

Thanshin (1188877) | about a year ago | (#44754479)

Actually, it's worse than that. In order to eliminate certain risks only really drastic solutions are effective.

I don't think certain risk elimination costs will become so high we're unwilling to pay. I believe the costs will go higher and we'll keep paying.

Eventually, people will understand that to avoid risks originating from the poorest countries, the final solution is to just eradicate those countries. After all, we don't want them for their population but for their resources. Instead of killing a few and putting a government that follows our orders, eventually we'll be capable (both technologically and socially) to just exterminate everyone in a country and replace them with resource extraction machines.

And once that problem is finally over, instead of the richest country vs the poorer one it will be between cities, and then neighborhoods.

The only thing stopping the richest from protecting themselves by exterminating everyone else is the shitty quality of the robots.

Re:Diminishing returns (1)

0111 1110 (518466) | about a year ago | (#44754529)

Eventually, people will understand that to avoid risks originating from the poorest countries, the final solution is to just eradicate those countries.

While it may be possible to nuke a country so thoroughly into a lunar landscape analogue that not even cockroaches will remain there will inevitably be domestic terrorists/extremists and they cannot start nuking their own cities. So there really is no end to their justification for an increasingly strict police state where everthing is sacrificed on the grand altar of the God of Safety.

Re:Diminishing returns (0)

Thanshin (1188877) | about a year ago | (#44754563)

While it may be possible to nuke a country so thoroughly into a lunar landscape analogue that not even cockroaches will remain there will inevitably be domestic terrorists/extremists and they cannot start nuking their own cities. So there really is no end to their justification for an increasingly strict police state where everthing is sacrificed on the grand altar of the God of Safety.

There's a step there that you are avoiding. To exterminate everyone in a country you might need a bomb, but you might also use a genetically targeted bio weapon. Or whatever else we invent.

However, to kill everyone you consider a threat in your own country you only need information and power. The power is already there. Not even the most naive think that if the nation's powerful people wants an identified individual to die or disappear their only change is to leave the country.

The information is still quite shaky bot it's going forward.

I'll present it in the opposite sense. How do you, as a domestic terrorist, do your terrorism if every second of your life was recorded and analyzed? I'm not discussing the consequences, I'm arguing that consequences never stopped any government in the history of the world from using their power. Only weaknesses in the technology.

If the nuclear missiles had been unstoppable and non detectable, enabling the US to disintegrate the entire USSR without possible retaliation. There would be no Russia.

Now we have better weapons than the imprecise nukes. In the future the weapons will be even better. Eventually a weapon will allow a single human being to destroy everyone else. Eventually technology will allow a single human being to not need anyone else. Whenever those event coincide, it will be the end of humanity.

Unless we're out of Earth, but that target seems to move farther every day.

Re:Diminishing returns (4, Insightful)

somersault (912633) | about a year ago | (#44754595)

Eventually technology will allow a single human being to not need anyone else. Whenever those event coincide, it will be the end of humanity.

Everybody needs friends of some sort. Unless you're suggesting that robots will be good enough friends by then. But if they're autonomous and free-thinking enough to make good friends, they're going to be just as much of a problem as real humans. They're also going to be harder to destroy.

Need for company (3, Insightful)

fyngyrz (762201) | about a year ago | (#44754779)

Everybody needs friends of some sort.

No. You're projecting your own ideas onto others in order to come up with an answer you like. The history of humanity is filled with those who went away from others on purpose, with motivations all over the cognitive map.

Re:Diminishing returns (2)

Gr8Apes (679165) | about a year ago | (#44754833)

Everybody needs friends of some sort. Unless you're suggesting that robots will be good enough friends by then. But if they're autonomous and free-thinking enough to make good friends, they're going to be just as much of a problem as real humans. They're also going to be harder to destroy.

Ted Kaczynski

Re:Diminishing returns (1)

somersault (912633) | about a year ago | (#44754887)

Having googled the guy, it sounds like he at least had notions of making life better for other people. He didn't hate the whole of humanity, he hated industrialisation.

I maybe shouldn't have used the word "friends" before, and I guess it may only take one sociopath/psychopath or otherwise mentally disturbed person to end the world.. but even sociopaths crave attention and acceptance from others.

Re:Diminishing returns (-1, Troll)

Chrisq (894406) | about a year ago | (#44754741)

There's a step there that you are avoiding. To exterminate everyone in a country you might need a bomb, but you might also use a genetically targeted bio weapon. Or whatever else we invent.

The problem is that the biggest risk factor is not genetic - it is Islam. I suppose in the far future it might be possible to have intelligent swarms of robot "wasps" with poisonous stings, who can look out for indications that someone is a muslim, but the problem will still be with us for many years.

Re:Diminishing returns (4, Insightful)

fyngyrz (762201) | about a year ago | (#44754785)

it is Islam

I believe you misspelled "religion" there.

No need to thank me.

Re:Diminishing returns (0)

Joce640k (829181) | about a year ago | (#44754787)

The problem is that the biggest risk factor is not genetic - it is Islam.

And Christianity...and every other organized religion.

Don't Christians in the USA go around telling each other the president is infallible and that they should respect the police?

If you can control the major religions, you're halfway to dictatorship.

Re:Diminishing returns (2)

L. J. Beauregard (111334) | about a year ago | (#44754893)

Don't Christians in the USA go around telling each other the president is infallible and that they should respect the police?

Some soi-disant Christians are all but claiming that B. Hussein Osama is the Antichrist.

Re:Diminishing returns (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44754579)

The only thing stopping the richest from protecting themselves by exterminating everyone else is the shitty quality of the robots.

And the fact that the poorer people ultimately control what the richest people can and cannot do through politics. As long as the very rich are a tiny minority, they will always be at the mercy of the majority, that can 'democratically' decide to steal their wealth and do with it whatever they please.

Re:Diminishing returns (1)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about a year ago | (#44754765)

The only thing stopping the richest from protecting themselves by exterminating everyone else is the shitty quality of the robots.

And the fact that the poorer people ultimately control what the richest people can and cannot do through politics. As long as the very rich are a tiny minority, they will always be at the mercy of the majority, that can 'democratically' decide to steal their wealth and do with it whatever they please.

I'm sure that any number of medieval serfs would have been interested in knowing that.

Re:Diminishing returns (0)

sosume (680416) | about a year ago | (#44754821)

That is called 'socialism'. It will increase until there is nobody left to pick up the bills.

Re:Diminishing returns (4, Insightful)

TheDarkMaster (1292526) | about a year ago | (#44754837)

Not exactly. First, our supposed "democracy" is a lie. What we actually have is a simulation to contain the masses and making them believe they are free (and therefore does not rebel). And in the first moment that appear a technology that allows the 1% superichs to kill anyone without relying on anyone, our "democracy" ends just as well as our lives.

Re:Diminishing returns (1)

Fallso (2997549) | about a year ago | (#44754777)

In information security risk management, we are taught that there are levels of "acceptable" risk, and that this can be calculated by analysing the likelihood and magnitude of a risk. Assuming a simple "high, medium, low" categorisation, anything that is less than "medium/low" or "low/medium" can pretty much be written off in the majority of circumstances.

Re: Diminishing returns (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44754971)

Information security risk management isnt a thing.

Re:Diminishing returns (1)

TheDarkMaster (1292526) | about a year ago | (#44754847)

Unfortunately this is the pure truth.

Re:Diminishing returns (5, Insightful)

jiadran (1198763) | about a year ago | (#44754589)

From what I understand, the point is that we are not concentrating on the biggest risks, but on the wrong risks. The measures we have taken to "protect" flights have resulted in more deaths (due to car accidents of people avoiding flying) than the deaths caused by the original incident that triggered the "security" measures.

All in all, we should not give up our freedoms for security theater that actually increases the overall risk.

Re:Diminishing returns (1)

dunkelfalke (91624) | about a year ago | (#44754863)

You operate under the assumption that people who avoid flying would drive instead. What if they just stay at home?
An increase of road deaths since 2001 but it doesn't look like it.
According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_motor_vehicle_deaths_in_U.S._by_year> [wikipedia.org] the amount of road deaths in 2010 was the lowest since 1950, so not so sure about that.

Re:Diminishing returns (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about a year ago | (#44754901)

All in all, we should not give up our freedoms for security theater that actually increases the overall risk.

BFrank: Duh, noobs.
BFrank rolls over in his grave.
BFrank has quit (Quit: grumble... deserve neither... grumble...)

Re:Diminishing returns (1)

Salgak1 (20136) | about a year ago | (#44754759)

And yet, talk of cost-benefit analysis is strangely absent from anyone discussing a given risk. . .

Wrong focus (4, Insightful)

captainpanic (1173915) | about a year ago | (#44754807)

But we do not even mitigate the biggest risk first. Arguably the biggest risk right now to us is cancer. However, in the US, the budget for cancer research is a pitiful 5 billion $/yr, which is rather small in comparison to the 79 billion $/yr for military research and testing.

Sources for budgets:
http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/NCI/research-funding [cancer.gov]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_budget_of_the_United_States#By_title [wikipedia.org]

Re:Diminishing returns (1)

muphin (842524) | about a year ago | (#44754913)

Like sharks falling from the sky?

Re:Diminishing returns (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44754973)

I think that when we talk about risks, we have to remember those that have no risk at all, but rather transfer risk to others. One good example of this is how Obama is under such extreme circumstances to make a decision about Syria. He may be making the wrong decision, no matter what he chooses to do. Do nothing and leave others with the impression that using chemicals on civilians is ok. Bomb their places that make chemical weapons, and maybe WW3 breaks out. However in no way is Obama in any danger of the result of his decisions. He's not going to be out there in a war, and if war comes to America, god forbid, he will disappear into some underground bunker until everything is ok.

This is the very fiber of the problem. People that are making decisions are in places where the result of those decisions don't actually matter. This is a huge problem with the way we're all allowing things to happen. I mean, in fact, it's so absurd that John McCain was playing poker while they were all deciding how to deal with the Syria problem.

Re:Diminishing returns (1)

jellomizer (103300) | about a year ago | (#44754989)

There is an other side. Our tolerance towards failure has became much shorter too.
When we read articles about a cloud service going down for a few minutes we jump the gun and say "Well it looks like that sysadmin guy got fired for that mistake" or if a bridge fails, or a building collapses, or some rich guy losses money... There is always seems to be an investigation that will find the person who had made that critical mistake and have them fired or jailed.

We learn by failures, but our system punishes failures. So we punish learning. That sysadmin who knocked down that cloud service for 5 minutes because he unplugged the wrong undocumented cable, or typed the wrong command to the router to shutdown and not update. Will be much less likely to do it again, then if he got fired, and someone else started working there.

We love that straight A student but we ignore the C/B student. The A student isn't learning much, while the C/B student is learning a lot of stuff.

Re:Diminishing returns (4, Insightful)

khakipuce (625944) | about a year ago | (#44754991)

The chances of dying are 100%. We all do it, it is just a case of when and how. As a society we are well into looking for very marginal returns - eat brocolli all your life to put off the chance of getting bowel cancer when you are 87 - and it is impossible to do valid experiments that show if measured take to mitgate one risk cause others.

I work on a large industrial site and management have voer the last few years been on a major safety push. One result of this is that they have been round and "risk assessed" all the walk ways and put barriers all over the place. The outcome is that walking from the car park to the office is now so convoluted that people just walk down the road ways. There never was any evidence that anyone was acutally injured in the areas where barriers were put up.

please, please (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44754439)

pass on this advice to a Progressive

Re:please, please (2, Funny)

game kid (805301) | about a year ago | (#44754499)

I'd rather not. It's not like we can stop Flo from selling insurance or anything.

Re:please, please (1)

smitty_one_each (243267) | about a year ago | (#44754669)

Nicely played.

Re:please, please (2, Interesting)

rednip (186217) | about a year ago | (#44754677)

Pass what? All I see is another crybaby objectivist whining that 'things were better when I was young'. Maybe the editor removed the 'stay off of my lawn' from the first draft.

USA need to stop... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44754453)

...using, developing, producing, buying, selling weapons and learn to be friends with others instead of trying to dominate. Until that happens, they will be hated by others and receive terror up their asses and keep being the scared cowards they are today.

Re:USA need to stop... (0)

Vinegar Joe (998110) | about a year ago | (#44754539)

Says the Anonymous Coward.

Re:USA need to stop... (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about a year ago | (#44754659)

Not the AC above, but if you really need to tack a name to that statement, use mine.

Re:USA need to stop... (1)

rvw (755107) | about a year ago | (#44754663)

...using, developing, producing, buying, selling weapons and learn to be friends with others instead of trying to dominate. Until that happens, they will be hated by others and receive terror up their asses and keep being the scared cowards they are today.

Problem is: there is no other world force able to control that this happens without destroying the US. If they gave up all this, they will be attacked by all those people, groups, nations who were attacked by them. It will take generations to overcome this.

Re:USA need to stop... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44754671)

Every country manufacture arms. The U.S. only does so more openly.

Re:USA need to stop... (1)

smitty_one_each (243267) | about a year ago | (#44754683)

While not endorsing gunboat diplomacy, your ideas set up a Big Win in the 1930s. For "War" values of "Win".

Re:USA need to stop... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44754725)

...using, developing, producing, buying, selling weapons and learn to be friends with others instead of trying to dominate. Until that happens, they will be hated by others and receive terror up their asses and keep being the scared cowards they are today.

Or we'll just build a bioweapon that targets matrilineal mitochondrial DNA and kills off all the terrorists.

Or we'll get a functional nanotechnology, and change our enemies minds by, you know, physically moving their atoms around until we actually make them think the way we want them to.

Re:USA need to stop... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44754819)

Or we'll just build a bioweapon that targets matrilineal mitochondrial DNA and kills off all the terrorists.

Or we'll get a functional nanotechnology, and change our enemies minds by, you know, physically moving their atoms around until we actually make them think the way we want them to.

See what I mean? This is the fear and need for domination that I was talking about. You are so scared of the world that your immediate response is that you need to attack someone Have you even considered other options?

Short version (5, Insightful)

philip.paradis (2580427) | about a year ago | (#44754461)

Bruce is right. Even if our society managed to put enough measures in place to mitigate all but the risks associated with an asteroid impact, you surely would not want to live in that society, as the term "living" would be a loosely defined term at best. It would be a society essentially devoid of free will.

Re:Short version (5, Insightful)

0111 1110 (518466) | about a year ago | (#44754493)

While you and I may not want to live in such a society there are those who would like nothing better. Many of them fancy themselves as the enforcers in such a regime, a chance to be a master instead of one of the many slaves. For people who live to control others every unjust law that makes life unbearable for the rest is yet another opportunity for them to exert their authority and feel that blissful, euphoric sense of power that is for them the ultimate drug.

Re:Short version (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44754925)

"While you and I may not want to live in such a society there are those who would like nothing better."

Many already do live in this society, it's called the USA. The united states is a dystopia, it's public and voting base is totally illiterate. They keep voting for their parties after giant bank bailouts. This is proof that human beings have no fucking clue what they are doing.

Re:Short version (1)

somersault (912633) | about a year ago | (#44754953)

So things would have been less dystopian without the bailouts? I can't really imagine that..

Re:Short version (1, Offtopic)

billybob2001 (234675) | about a year ago | (#44754751)

buildings collapse less often

Is that each?

From the sample I know of, buildings collapse either 0 or 1 times.

So what does less often mean?

Re:Short version (1)

Kilo Kilo (2837521) | about a year ago | (#44754881)

It means that you don't read stories in the paper about (different) buildings collapsing on a daily basis.

Re: Short version (1)

mrbester (200927) | about a year ago | (#44754977)

It does happen on a daily basis, therefore it isn't news except if it involves people (but not poor ones) in your country. Then it is the only news.

Shorter version (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44754753)

Bruce is

A lot of this is not aversion to risk (4, Interesting)

cyber-vandal (148830) | about a year ago | (#44754471)

It's an aversion to being sued for not sufficiently managing that risk which leads to massive overreactions on the part of authorities and businesses.

Re:A lot of this is not aversion to risk (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44754481)

Since being sued for that is an indirect result of the event happening (if the event never happens, you'll not be sued for it), it's still aversion to risk. It's just that now the risk no longer consists only of direct damage, but additionally of being sued.

Re:A lot of this is not aversion to risk (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44754505)

So it is aversion to risk, just a level further down the chain.

Re:A lot of this is not aversion to risk (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44754543)

That's partly caused by another characteristic of modern society: EVERYTHING has somebody who is responsable of. We don't believe in accidents anymore. Shit happens, wait no, it doesn't. When something goes wrong people always start looking for someone to blame.

Re:A lot of this is not aversion to risk (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44754717)

Almost but not quite - when something goes wrong, a large proportion of people start looking for some way to shift the responsibility from their own actions to some other party. Not quite everyone is like this, but the number that accept responsibility for themselves is diminishing and when you see one person after another getting away with shirking their responsibility it makes it harder and harder to justify and not go down that destructive path yourself.

Re:A lot of this is not aversion to risk (2)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about a year ago | (#44754789)

That's partly caused by another characteristic of modern society: EVERYTHING has somebody who is responsable of. We don't believe in accidents anymore. Shit happens, wait no, it doesn't. When something goes wrong people always start looking for someone to blame.

This seems to more or less track the mutation of responsibility from expecting people to be active to expecting them to be "pro-active".

I hate that word. It sounds ugly, is frequently mis-used when "active" would be sufficient and we managed to to quite well without it for many, many years.

Re:A lot of this is not aversion to risk (1)

Trepidity (597) | about a year ago | (#44754617)

That isn't the reason for things like national-security policy; you cannot sue the federal government for its security policies (due to sovereign immunity). However you can vote politicians out of office, or vote them into office if they grandstand in a way you like, which is what they're worried about.

Re:A lot of this is not aversion to risk (2)

ohieaux (2860669) | about a year ago | (#44755001)

Bingo!

Try buying a gas can to fill your mower. The new, low-risk, inflexible, spouts have multiple interlocks and extend, maybe 3" from the can. Pouring often results in gasoline spilling on the device you are filling - which may be hot from use. And while some risk is mitigated by keeping kids from accidentally pouring the gasoline, the greater risk of fire is only mitigated by large warning messages imprinted in the plastic. The prior technology was effective, with low risk to the consumer. The solution is ineffective, with higher risk. But, the manufacturer's risk is reduced at the expense of the consumer's risk. Why is that?

Life has a mortality rate of 100% (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44754497)

For some reason, life these days (At least in Finland) is more and more about tiptoeing safely into an alzheimer-ridden adult-diapers-wearing dementia at the age of 100, and less and less about actually living and enjoying life.

I for one propose to increase the number of deaths by heart attacks, alcohol overdose, drug abuse, failed parachutes, and so on. That really is the only way to lower the mortality rates on the unwanted types of death...

Re:Life has a mortality rate of 100% (2)

Thanshin (1188877) | about a year ago | (#44754587)

Just make a robot that every morning asks you what you had for dinner. If you can't remember, it shoots you in the face.

You found the cure to Alzheimer's!

(If you're really set up in the parachute fail thing, you can make the robot catapult you through a window. But then you'd have to sleep every night with a broken parachute.)

Re:Life has a mortality rate of 100% (1)

Kilo Kilo (2837521) | about a year ago | (#44754889)

You can experience greater heart attacks, drug and alcohol abuse by simply moving to America. Everything's better here. We live hard and fast.

Re:Life has a mortality rate of 100% (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44754931)

Life has a mortality rate of 100%

Of all humans who have ever lived, only 93% have died.

Safety is an illusion (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44754513)

It's life, no one gets out alive.

Sorry, but where is the evidence? (3, Interesting)

aaaaaaargh! (1150173) | about a year ago | (#44754519)

As someone who is familiar with a lot of theoretical work on decision making and the work of Tversky and Kahneman, but not with current empirical research, I am wondering where he gets his data from. By looking at a few examples you cannot establish general claims about how risk prone or averse we have become. Likewise, how does he know that risk aversity depends on the culture? Perhaps it does, but I want to see the study. And yes, there are plenty of studies in this field, it just seems that Schneier doesn't read them, or otherwise he should mention them.

So how about some empirical evidence?

Re:Sorry, but where is the evidence? (4, Insightful)

philip.paradis (2580427) | about a year ago | (#44754577)

It appears you've been asleep for the last ten years, and possibly the twenty years preceding it that laid the foundation for the severe civil liberties issues we're facing now. Your UID indicates you should be old enough to understand this, unless you've led a rather sheltered life.

Re:Sorry, but where is the evidence? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44754583)

OMG who has been living under a rock for the past 15 years? Talk about short attention span...

Re:Sorry, but where is the evidence? (5, Insightful)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year ago | (#44754613)

3,000 lost lives have caused us to spend trillions on wars. A fraction of that invested in additional medical research would have saved far more.

A death in front of the cameras is worse more than a million deaths on a hospital bed...to a politician.

Re:Sorry, but where is the evidence? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44754945)

Do you mean to imply that Iraq was fought because of 911 or just as an excuse? They were going to move away from petrodollars and weaken the US standing...

Re:Sorry, but where is the evidence? (1)

philip.paradis (2580427) | about a year ago | (#44754615)

Also, two can play at this game. Please cite your claimed sources, since you've made the bold statement of being so intimately familiar with the subject matter, and have noted that there are "plenty of studies in this field" that you must have sitting on your desk for rapid reference. Provide a BTC address and I'll be delighted to cover the costs of you shipping me a hardcopy. I'll be glad to review your studies and provide an analysis at length within fourteen days.

Re:Sorry, but where is the evidence? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44754651)

Well, I've mentioned Tversky and Kahneman, and as it happens on my desk are currently (right now and very literally):

Bouyssou / Dubois / Prade / Pirlot (eds.): Decision Making process. Wiley 2006.

Gärdenfors /Sahlin (eds.): Decision, probability, and utility.Cambridge UP 1988.

as well as (not directly related) Amartya Sen's "Rationality and Freedom".

The older Gärdenfors volume has plenty of references to empirical research on risk taking in the contributions of Part IV ("Unrealiable psobabilities") and in chapter 11 "Prospect theory: an analysis of decision under risk" by Tversky and Kahneman. The more recent Bouyssou et. al. has even more references to empirical research.

  It's not as if behavioral economics was a new field. But as I said I am mostly familiar with the theoretical research, so why are you being such an asshole?

Re:Sorry, but where is the evidence? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44754721)

*well deserved applause*

Re:Sorry, but where is the evidence? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44754621)

Ever heard of 11-S? Many other countries suffer acts of terrorism (I've lived some) and nobody is stupid enough to pour a big chunk of the economy into fake security theater while reducing rights to the bare minimum where people are only allowed to stay at home (Boston Bombings?) and they stay there in fear. Now every online conversation is monitored for suspect terrorism, nothing is private any more, and your government is lying to you every single day.

Is this the american dream you ever wanted? What other empirical evidence you need to start thinking for yourself?

A good start (4, Insightful)

Vinegar Joe (998110) | about a year ago | (#44754531)

Would be exterminating the lawyers.

Re:A good start (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44754573)

Sometimes I think that's a beter answer than 42.
But don't forget to exterminate the politicians too.

Re:A good start (2)

arth1 (260657) | about a year ago | (#44754835)

But don't forget to exterminate the politicians too.

By offing all lawyers, you'll get most politicians too.

But a better rule might be to first kill anyone wearing a tie. That should cover the above, plus a lot of other undesirables.

Stress (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44754541)

All this stressing about risk, and the rules, and money it costs might be killing people today !

engineer who embraced risk (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44754547)

Here's an engineer who realized at an early age that discovery comes with some risk,
        http://www.bentleypublishers.com/milliken [bentleypublishers.com] [bentleypublishers.com]

He died last year at 101, http://blog.hemmings.com/index.php/2012/08/27/william-f-milliken-1911-2012/ [hemmings.com] [hemmings.com]

In "Equations of Motion: Adventure, Risk and Innovation", Milliken vividly recounts his experiences pushing airplanes and race cars beyond their limits. His exciting life provides singular, real-world insight into the challenge and joy of engineering and the history of vehicle dynamics as he created it in the air and on the track."

"Many readers of Racecar Engineering will either have a copy or have read Bill and Doug Millikens' Race Car Vehicle Dynamics. In the middle of this seminal work is a chapter titled Historical Note On Vehicle Dynamics Development, which gives a brief insight into the post-war period when all that had been learnt in aeronautics, stimulated by the urgency of war, began to be transferred to automotive engineering. Bill Milliken led this work, creating a Vehicle Dynamics Department out of the Flight Research Department at the Cornell Aeronautical laboratory (CAL).

This new book is the story of Bill"s life, from his earliest days building ever more daring vehicles: his design, build, flight and crash of the M-l aircraft; his desire to discover the science behind stability and control; his pioneering work in flight testing in the aviation industry pre-war and the formation of Flight Research Department at CAL where research into variable stability was started.

The transition to vehicle dynamics research was born out of Bill"s love of racing, notably at Watkins Glen and Pike"s Peak, with preparation and development carried out at CAL. To formalise what was going on, the Vehicle Dynamics Department was formed and Bill was fortunate to meet with Maurice Olley of GM which led to a multi-year relationship that funded the work to put vehicle dynamics onto a scientific basis.

It is a book full of science, adventure, philosophy and humour, copiously illustrated with rare photographs, that will intrigue a broad range of those interested in both aircraft and vehicle engineering."
Review of Equations of Motion from Racecar Engineering - November 2006

This just in... (0)

whydavid (2593831) | about a year ago | (#44754609)

...in response to catastrophic events, people demonstrate a willingness to sacrifice personal freedoms for a measure of perceived safety.

The author of this blog should be commended for this completely novel contribution to society.

Oh well, at least he provided an actionable recommendation: "We need to relearn how to recognize the trade-offs that come from risk management, especially risk from our fellow human beings. We need to relearn how to accept risk, and even embrace it, as essential to human progress and our free society."

Ok Bruce, "We" will get right on that. Thanks for the advice.

Spending money costs lives (2)

gnasher719 (869701) | about a year ago | (#44754631)

Assume you spend x million tax dollars. Doesn't matter on what. People had to work to make that money. When people work, accidents happen and people day. Someone good at statistics will probably be able to figure out X in the statement "when X million tax dollars are spent, on average one person will die in the effort of making that money". I don't think the number is very large.

But that means spending X million dollars to save one life is pointless because you will kill - in a completely unpredictable way - one life to get the money!

Re:Spending money costs lives (2)

tburkhol (121842) | about a year ago | (#44754899)

Someone good at statistics will probably be able to figure out X in the statement "when X million tax dollars are spent, on average one person will die in the effort of making that money".

In the US, the median income is $40k. $1M tax requires an 'extra' 25 jobs beyond what people would take to feed and clothe themselves. The workplace fatality rate is 3.5 per 100,000 (source [aflcio.org] ), or 1 per 28,600. This means you get $1.1B of revenue per fatality. US personal tax receipts are almost $2T, so you could argue that the federal government kills almost 1800 people per year through the tax burden.

This income include social security and medicare, and I'm quite certain that spending on those two programs alone saves more than 2000 people/year.

I don't think the number is very large.

Thus demonstrating Scheier's point that we're really not very good at estimating risk

Why unpredictable? (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about a year ago | (#44754985)

Why can't the next x million fix that problem? With enough mallets, winning at wack-a-mole is trivial.

It's more of "protect the children", (4, Informative)

FunPika (1551249) | about a year ago | (#44754649)

Business/governments are afraid of public backlash for NOT going to extreme lengths. As an example, if Obama today announced he was going to work towards repealing the PATRIOT Act and whatever silly laws have lead to excessive sums of money being spent on reducing the the already slim chance of dying in a terrorist attack, Republicans would go crazy claiming that the Democrats don't give a care if you and your family die. If schools right now weren't spending who-knows how much money on installing security cameras, hiring armed guards, etc. in response to Sandy Hook, there would be articles everywhere right around now claiming how the public school system is being irresponsible with the safety of children. Hell, I recently remember that there were actually people seriously considering shunning Starbucks because they won't become a gun-free zone where relevant laws don't require it.

This was foreseeable (3, Insightful)

hyades1 (1149581) | about a year ago | (#44754681)

Big business is risk-averse. And in America today, big business runs everything.

Balance (1)

jmhobrien (2750125) | about a year ago | (#44754691)

For every ten thousand people who are unable to appropriately evaluate risk, there will be an insurance broker ready to exploit them.

Schneier is right, as usual (5, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | about a year ago | (#44754715)

Though increasingly I start getting the impression that he's firing about a couple of "duh. You don't say..." statements. Or is it just 'cause I'm in the sec biz that it seems "duh" to me?

Why does anyone think security is in any way different from any other business? In EVERY business, every project, every goal you have, everything you do, the first 90% take 10% of the work, while the last 10% gobble up 90%. Be it 80/20 or 70/30 in yours, I won't split hairs, but that's how it is: A huge part of the project or goal is trivially implemented while a minimal part takes up the lion's share. I'd even go so far to say that in security, the ratio is 99-1.

The GOOD thing about security is that you can actually just do the first 99% and accept the risk for the rest, and get away with an incredible cost/benefit ratio. And you'll find that most companies actually use that strategy in their risk management and reach a security level of 95+ percent. Actually, the joke here is that most companies are, at least in my and I'd say "our" (yours too, I'd guess) definition of security standards, under-secured because of their IT-Governance and that "95% is good enough 'til everything is at 95%" rules. That's why trivial security mechanisms aren't implemented. We're already at 95 with sec. No need to throw money that way (and, believe it or not, most companies reach their "recommended" IT-Sec level easily. Simply because those 95% are SO dirt cheap, easy and painless to implement that they almost certainly ARE already in place, and if not a few pennies will do. You'll find the IT-Sec requirements usually in the "quick wins" quarter of the chart).

You see, companies already heed that advice. Mostly because they don't give a shit about customers complaining about shoddy security because, well, they'll still buy 'cause we're SO cheap. And yes, they do.

It's different with governments that won't just get a quick outcry when a security blooper happens (like a corporations would if they, say, lose every CC number of your customers). If a plane crashed anywhere into a building again, the press would have a field day. HOW could this happen? Didn't our law makers learn anything from 9/11? Did they simple ignore it and go on with their life? What do we have those useless twits for if they do not do ANYTHING? You may fill up here with statements of your choice, but one thing is certain: This administration is finished. Done. Nobody will give them credit for anything anymore. And you better forget about winning the next elections for at least half a decade. People tend to remember those things (and the other party will spend a lot of time and money reminding them of it).

So we need 100% security. Not because we really want it or need it. Not because the scenario is so dangerous to us, the people.

It's dangerous to them, and their place at the feeding trough.

Re:Schneier is right, as usual (1)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about a year ago | (#44754817)

Bingo! Although avoiding physical risk is the most visible way in which our lives have become warped, the dangers of pursuing the asymptote are not limited to just that one area.

We've also spent the last half-century or so pursuing efficiency. The projected end to that path is seen as a case where everything is cheap, but no one has a job to be able to afford to buy it.

Re:Schneier is right, as usual (2)

arth1 (260657) | about a year ago | (#44754859)

In EVERY business, every project, every goal you have, everything you do, the first 90% take 10% of the work, while the last 10% gobble up 90%.

You must not have worked in the software industry.
The first 90% of a project takes 90% of the time. The last 10% of a project takes the other 90% of the time.

lawn darts... (1)

Type44Q (1233630) | about a year ago | (#44754727)

I think there should be free lawn darts [wikipedia.org] for everyone.

Bruce, as always cuts to the crux (1)

SomeRADDude (635369) | about a year ago | (#44754743)

Bruce really is quite insightful in his observations. I can not recall ever having read something from him that was not well reasoned and thought provoking. We as a people seem to be striving for a bubble-wrapped world and we are all the worse for it. With the greatest risk comes the greatest rewards, at the current average level of risk here in the USA, we are completely deserving of a Cracker Jack prize. Seems as if the race to the bottom is near completion.

Step out of your comfort zone (3, Interesting)

allcoolnameswheretak (1102727) | about a year ago | (#44754745)

I agree with the article. Increasingly people relinquish life experiences, if not life itself, out of fear and an unwillingness to take any risks. People who avoid trips to far away countries because of fear of a plane crash are a common occurrence. Yet I also know people who avoid excursions on weekends because they are afraid of being involved in a traffic accident. People who are afraid to visit concerts out of fear of crowds or stampedes, people who love oriental style and culture yet would never visit a country such as Morocco out of fear of kidnap or a terrorist attack.

I have to admit, I also experience this fuzzy fear of doing something new, moving out of my comfort zone, leaving the safe haven of my apartment, my town, my daily routine, every time I leave to do something out of the ordinary. I blame the worldwide media and my addiction to news. It seems like bad things happen all the time, everywhere. But it's important to put things into perspective. The world is a very big place, and 99.998% of the time people are safe and nothing happens. Of course, on those very rare occasions where something unfortunate does happen, it makes news and penetrates into our awareness, tickling our fears.

Of course, just as important as putting things into perspective, is not to be stupid and take unnecessary risks. You want to experience oriental culture? By all means, visit Morocco: Casablanca, Marrakesh, Fes. The people are very friendly and there are beautiful things to see there. But please, stay out of Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq... accepting risk does not have to encompass being reckless.

Looking back, I don't regret a single time I kicked myself in the butt, stepped out of my comfort zone, and experienced new things. Yes, I was anxious on numerous occasions, mostly at airports, nervous and afraid. It doesn't matter. In the end, it was all worth it.

No shit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44754781)

People have been saying this for well over a decade. No offense, Bruce.

Risk taking is always encouraged... (4, Insightful)

Overzeetop (214511) | about a year ago | (#44754791)

...but failure is unacceptable.

Standard operating procedure in nearly all industries today.

Titanic misadventures (2)

mdsolar (1045926) | about a year ago | (#44754811)

A risk category that is growing is the tremendously large screw ups. In the past, we just did not have the capacity to snuff out so many lives at once by mistake. The sinking of the Titanic, the crash of a modern passenger jet, the largely failed evacuation of the twin towers, the highway pileup or the toxic gassing of a whole town from a chemical accident were simply not possible in the past.

All of these have active accident prevention efforts in place when they occur. It is not that risk is not being addressed, it is that the high consequences of a mishap ultimately make blame in adequate proportion impossible. And so the system continues to set up for systematic failure. Airline safety is a pretty good example of how a systematic learning process can help to address this, but consequences still continue to grow. And, as risks get to be global, like nuclear winter, ocean acidification or global warming, the chance to learn from mistakes diminishes because there is no next time in which to be more careful.

I mostly agree with him (3, Insightful)

davidbrit2 (775091) | about a year ago | (#44754839)

...But somehow I don't have a problem with less-frequent building collapses.

Culture of blame (1)

Required Snark (1702878) | about a year ago | (#44754849)

The flip side of obsessive blame avoidance is the drive to find someone and hold them responsible/make them pay.

The attitude is "if I can fault someone else then I'm completely off the hook" along with "I can take out my anger on whoever did this to me and it will be OK".

And before the self righteous conservatives start whining about welfare, I would like to point out that both conservatives and Christians are some of the worst offenders. Just think about every time some self absorbed pulpit pounding asshat preacher says that a natural disaster is the "wrath of god punishing the wicked". He's found someone to blame and clearly approves of the suffering, death and destruction. So much for "Christian charity" and "hate the sin, love the sinner".

And it's not the intrinsically inferior brown skinned immigrants who are to blame for wrecking the US. Rep King from Iowa is doing the racists equivalent of flapping his penis out in public when he says 'for everyone who is a valedictorian, there’s another hundred out there, they weigh 130 pounds and with calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.' Conservatives have taken the blame game to heart and made it their own.

super fundamental right (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44754861)

Over here in Germany the federal minister of the interior talked about a fundamental right above all other fundamental rights written down - security.

nanny-state government ruining our kids (4, Informative)

jonwil (467024) | about a year ago | (#44754865)

When I was a kid, I used take my pocket money every Saturday morning, tear out of the house at who knows what speed, down the street, through the car park of the recreation center, across the sports oval and through to the corner store (all the while shouting who knows what at the top of my lungs). Then I would go and spend my pocket money on all kinds of lollies (most of which would probably be eaten by the time I got home).
All of this was done with no parental supervision whatsoever.

These days if that happened, the parents would be yelled at for allowing their kid to go out unsupervised, yelled at for allowing their kid to run so fast though car parks and sports ovals and things with such a high risk of being hurt in the process and quite possibly yelled at for allowing their kids to spend their money with no controls on what they are buying.

Note that I also did other "dangerous" things like walking/riding my bike to school, playing on playground equipment and accessing the Internet without a parent looking over my shoulder at all times.

First world ignorance at it's finest (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44754943)

Fatal childhood diseases a thing of the past? Wow tell that to the vast majority of the world's kids who die from diarrhea. If we want to reduce risk perhaps we should all start at the bottom and work our way up, instead of starting right near the top with priorities like safer air travel for the minority of humans who can afford to travel at all.

What do I do to help? I pledge 5% of my income to the world's poorest, but working my way up to 10% by the end of this year. It's amazing how much better your life is when you realize you have way too much shit. Not to mention waking up to the reality of how poorly our morals in the 1st world have degraded, we can't excuse the ignorance with this here www anymore. We know what goes on, we can follow the trail of corruption back to the first world, it's the elite rich (and that includes YOU and your $400+ working week paycheck ) that are keeping the majority of humans in poverty and working them in slave conditions.

The Life You Can Save, google it, bing it, yahoo it, whatever you do, just (fucking) do it! If you are not giving away at least 2% of your income to the world's poorest, you can not consider yourself a good/moral/just human being. Whether you believe in god or don't. The fact is if you played the genetic lottery again, your odds of starting life extremely well off are slim to extremely malnourished.

Not really (1)

BlackPignouf (1017012) | about a year ago | (#44754969)

Well, we're still underestimating the level of risk related to peak oil and global warming.
Those are bigger problems than buildings collapse.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>