A thought at 1:34 am.
One of our smoke detectors suddenly woke me a little after midnight.
It’s such a loud, horribly piercing noise. Lynn laughed at my leap from the bed, and my uncoordinated attempt to pull on pants. She didn’t laugh at the time though, as it was all too serious. Fires in Southern California are no laughing matter. It was when the crisis was over and there was no fire that her giggles at my expense started.
I was in a deep, deep sleep when woken by the alarm. I’d gone to bed early because I’d not been getting great sleep. There have been a lot of fireworks lately. Our dog doesn’t cope well with fireworks, so we haven’t slept well. Also, we recently hatched some chickens and it seems cruel not to let them out early in the morning.
My thought. I hear such nonsense talked about risk.
I know. That’s a harsh statement. Judgemental even. But it is 1:34 am and that’s just how it is.
Risk is not the same as probability. Risk involves impact and benefit.
When my car is running on fumes, with very little gas, do I risk going to the cheaper gas station or do I go straight to the nearest? I know from the fancy digital gauge that I probably have the range to get to the cheaper gas. If I’m not pushed for time and I could consider it ‘hilarious’ to run out of gas and have to be towed, then I might take that risk and head for Arco. However, if I’m really busy and it would mess up my work, my friends, or my clients, then I’ll happily pay that extra 34c a gallon.
I’m not going to bungee jump. It’s likely everything will go well and I will not be injured but, for me, the benefit is too low and the potential impact too great.
I would jump on a motorcycle without a moment’s thought. I’d happily ride it even without a helmet - slowly. And with full protective gear, I’d be joyous at beyond what is a legal highway speed. The potential impact is massive, similar perhaps to the bungee jump. The probability of that impact is probably even higher than the bungee jump.
I can shout “Get off your cell phone while driving and look out for motorcycles!!” but no one is listening.
For me, the benefit of riding a motorcycle is too high to ignore. I’d even ride a Harley! (Harley’s are my least favorite motorcycles, but still more fun that a car)
Some people wouldn’t risk taking a commercial flight even if there wasn’t a pandemic. The probability of a catastrophic event is tiny, though the impact is huge, so the decision should come down to the level of benefit of the trip. Though it rarely does. the news stories of plane crashes are too powerful.
Vaccines have a risk, as does every medicine. The probability of a problem is well understood to be tiny. The impact of potential problems can be significant. But the benefits are both personally and globally enormous. No one who understands risk would avoid vaccines. Maybe someday we’ll even understand our DNA so well that we can eradicate all of the rare problems, but I doubt that will change the minds of anyone. These are not rational decisions being made. The unproven story of one child with autism is too powerful.
My family is sleeping, comfortable that the smoke detector was a false alarm. For me though, the risk is too great to ignore. The probability of a fire is perhaps really low, but the potential impact of a fire is way too high, and the benefit of taking the risk is only sleep.
And this is why I am awake at 1:34 am.