Search This Blog

Monday, 22 September 2014

A systematic flaw when weighing gain against risk

In a Swedish newspaper article/blog the Swedish journalist Clas Svahn discusses the book ”Katastroferunder 100 år” (Catastrophes during 100 years) written by the Danish researcher and historian Rasmus Dahlberg. Reading the article I react on/against the view or role of both humans and technology.

The effect of “human negligence never seems to be reduced. The more people we become and the more technical solutions introduced the more sources of possible misery, there will be. ...  The common thread here is without a doubt humans and the fact that we are not flawless, but full of arrogance, laziness and influenced by peer pressure and therefore takes decisions that sometimes result in disasters that no one could have predicted”.

I don’t like this perspective. Technology and technical solutions are not introduced to increase safety, they are introduced in order to make things possible (that was not possible before). At the introduction there is an unconscious (and sometimes conscious) process of weighing the gain against the risks. If the gain does not weigh heavier, the solutions will not be introduced (that’s how our laziness works and has made humans successful at spreading over this planet). Look for instance at inventions such as the bungyjump cord, the machinegun or the car. Not safe at all, but enough people has perceived the benefits as more important than the risks and therefore used these things. No one thinks these inventions are harmless and most disasters they can lead to are envisioned and predicted (including an inhabitable Earth).

As I’ve writtenbefore humans are very good at feeling/identifying when something is going wrong. In most of these instances humans react and stop catastrophes in the making. This happens all the time and is most often not documented (and the saved lives not counted). Humans are fantastic!

Also, the amount of people on this world is only possible thanks to our inventions. Technology kills many, but supports many more (at least for now). And looking at how we destroy our planet, it is not human errors leading to catastrophes that are killing the earth. It is a systematic flaw in weighing gain against risk. This because there are two things that don’t work as well as they could, or should:

-          The process of weighing potential gain against the risks (today, many introductions of new technology are too complex for our intuition).

-          Our never ending strive for (economic) growth skew our perspective on gain and therefore (can) let us introduce things that we don’t need.

No comments:

Post a Comment