Friday, 18 June 2004

Being too cautious can be dangerous

spiked has an interesting article on why being too cautious can put us at risk when we follow advice that has been given without full understanding or that is not adapted to our local situation. The author argues that in cases where the information is not sufficient or adapted, we are better of taking a risk than following cautionary advice. In practice, it is consistent with what Bruce Schneier says in his book Beyond Fear where he explains how to evaluate risk in day to day situation so that we can do what we want to do while taking risks that we deem acceptable and that we understand.

A simple example of this principle is crossing a busy road. The only completely safe option is not to cross the road at all, which defeats the purpose. The most dangerous way to cross the road would be jaywalking with your eyes closed. Between the two, you have lots of options that will get you on the other side of the road with a probability of being hit by a car low enough that you are willing to take the risk.

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