Irrational risk assessment

I was musing this morning on the general perception that our society has become more risk-averse with time, and realizing it is only part of the picture.

This is certainly true in certain areas. Parents today are much less likely to allow their young children to play and walk to school unsupervised, despite no significant increase in the occurrence of kidnapping or attacks on children. We are afraid of the asbestos and lead in our homes, of attacks by political extremists on the other side, of lightning storms and cougars and sharks.

At the same time, we are remarkably *unafraid* of the very real risk of global nuclear war. The last time tensions between nuclear-armed superpowers were this high, during the Cold War, there were global marches and protests and treaties being signed. Now, for some reason, it hardly makes the news. We are also collectively too risk-tolerant when it comes to the known and potential downsides of new technologies: pharmaceuticals, food additives, genetic vaccines, radio transmitters held next to our heads, microplastics, forever chemicals. And we have a special blind spot – especially hypocritical on the social justice-oriented left – for the suffering and lost life-years caused by economic inequality, exploitative pricing, poverty, and homelessness.

So, I present this chart. The placement of each item is admittedly subjective and open to debate. In general, risks on the left side are well-publicized and widely recognized, out of proportion to the actual harm that they cause, while risks on the right side are underplayed or outright denied in media and collective consciousness.

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