Risk by Dan Gardner

In books read on September 28, 2009

This book is all about putting a realistic twist on all the big risks everyone thinks the world holds - zillions of people terrified of terrorism and the like. The only problem for me is that I'm already a numerate sceptic who explains to others that the risk of, oh, their kids being abducted by paedophiles or similar, is vanishingly small and takes all use of statistics in news stories with a huge pinch of salt. So I wasn't sure how much I was going to get out of it.

The good news is that it's a good read and did tell me plenty of things I didn't know. Which just gives me more ammunition for playing the numerate sceptic role in future. Hah, fun.

The bad news? Well, the book covers the phenomenon of "confirmation bias" where you tend to take away from a story only the bits that backup what you already think and disregard the rest. So I think I've probably done that even with this book... how do you counter that? The author mainly wants to play down people's fears of what they consider to be big dangers but doesn't really get into what the biggest risks we face in our comfortable first world lives are. We obviously all make bad decisions about them preferring to fixate on removing some minor environmental hazard before taking exercise.

The point to take away is that we're fortunate to be about the healthiest, safest and longest lived humans who have ever walked the planet which is nice to have confirmed. (And don't believe any interpretation of statistics you hear in the news. Hmmm, the author's a journalist...)

Purchased on 1st September 2009.

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