Sign up FAST! Login

Jared Diamond’s Guide to Reducing Life’s Risks -

Jared Diamond s Guide to Reducing Life s Risks NYTimes com


Stashed in: Life, Risk!, Attitude, Awesome, Longevity!, Math!, America!

To save this post, select a stash from drop-down menu or type in a new one:

Life expectancy for a healthy American man of my age is about 90. (That’s not to be confused with American male life expectancy at birth, only about 78.) If I’m to achieve my statistical quota of 15 more years of life, that means about 15 times 365, or 5,475, more showers. But if I were so careless that my risk of slipping in the shower each time were as high as 1 in 1,000, I’d die or become crippled about five times before reaching my life expectancy. I have to reduce my risk of shower accidents to much, much less than 1 in 5,475.

This calculation illustrates the biggest single lesson that I’ve learned from 50 years of field work on the island of New Guinea: the importance of being attentive to hazards that carry a low risk each time but are encountered frequently.

I first became aware of the New Guineans’ attitude toward risk on a trip into a forest when I proposed pitching our tents under a tall and beautiful tree. To my surprise, my New Guinea friends absolutely refused. They explained that the tree was dead and might fall on us.

Or all the spiders would fall down at night, or the animals would be attracted to it for the same reasons....

This is eye opening:

Studies have compared Americans’ perceived ranking of dangers with the rankings of real dangers, measured either by actual accident figures or by estimated numbers of averted accidents. It turns out that we exaggerate the risks of events that are beyond our control, that cause many deaths at once or that kill in spectacular ways — crazy gunmen, terrorists, plane crashes, nuclear radiation, genetically modified crops. At the same time, we underestimate the risks of events that we can control (“That would never happen to me — I’m careful”) and of events that kill just one person in a mundane way.

It's the risks we don't think about that get us.


An interesting article, but I was left wanting more (such as a link to the studies which indicate exaggerated concern about the wrong risks).

You May Also Like: