Thursday, 25 February 2010


Honestly, I really do intend to put up a post about risk. Well, to be more precise, about risk and our perception of risk. Between the two is a great gulf fixed. It's linked to that 'woolly thinking' theme I've aired once or twice. The media exploit this disconnect, I will argue, and we end up more worried than we should be about all kinds of things that are very unlikely to happen to us. Meanwhile, we also get all excited and hopeful about other things that are similarly very unlikely to happen to us.

Just as a quick example, let's take the National Lottery. Suppose you write down a number between 1 and 14,000,000. Any number you like. Let's say you choose... oh, I don't know... how about 6,345,139. (One of my lucky numbers, which is why I propose it. And a prime, in case you're interested.) Now, without revealing your number, ask a friend, colleague or compliant passer-by to choose a number between 1 and 14,000,000. How confident are you that they will write down the same number? Welcome to the odds (roughly) of getting the big six in the Lottery.

The post I have in mind will be chock-full of thoroughly analysed data from impeccable sources, will tear down some of your existing preconceptions, and will in all likelihood improve your judgement on just how unlikely unlikely events are.

Yeah, okay, that could have been more stylishly expressed. But let's move on.

While I'm putting the final touches to my thesis, let me whet your appetites (please note the use of 'whet' and if it looks odd or wrong, please go away and look it up immediately) with an arguably crudely but indisputably robustly expressed opinion on much the same subject matter. (NSFW if you have the sound on, btw.)

Tip of the hat to The Salted Slug for introducing me to Doug Stanhope. I won't put any hotlinks in to other work by Mr Stanhope; suffice it to say I laughed myself almost unconscious, but most people will be deeply.... deeply... offended. I willingly acknowledge what this says about me and most people. On your own heads be it if you go a-Googling.

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