Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Risk is a fascinating subject.  My Nobel prize idea for today is to quantify the risk of success (risk and chance or possibility used interchangeably--incorrectly I may add).  Why is the risk of success so minuscule, but the risk of failure is so high.


  1. Excerpts from an email to my bro:'s a Nobel Prize idea (if someone hasn't already claimed it). Think about how in one second (or however long) your lives were changed forever. Now you have to be aware of [her] having a relapse for the rest of your lives. That isn't all you have to worry about. It could be a car crash, a plane crash, an unfavorable diagnosis, a drowning, a poisoning, a burn (things parents have to worry about) or any almost limitless number of things. Life insurers have these bases covered as risk factors (of bad things, lets assume). The risks may not be that high, but they are quantifiable. But what about the opposite, like risk of good things? What's the risk that you will win lotto, or your company will go public, or your rich uncle will leave you a castle, or some supermodel would wisk you away to a tropical paradise, or that you find out you are Harry Potter, or you will get a rediculously fat check for a take-your-time-and-write-it-whenever-you-want book? The risk of whatever the opposite of catastrophic is dismally low. Why is the risk of bad things so high and the risk of good things so low? I swear, the formula must not be as difficult as the theory of everything, but find this formula and you've got a Nobel Prize for sure.

  2. This is not uncommon, though somewhat understated. I was reading through Stephen Law's exellent (though not perfect), book The Philosophy Gym and came across his discussion of philosopher David Hume on miracles. Yes, there are no miracles, though I refuted this claimon Julian Baggini's site most ineloquently, but Law stated that for every "miracle" that ends gloriously, there is another "disaster" (my word, not his) that is as bad as the "miracle" was good. I claim that the scales are more heavily weighted in the "disaster" category. It isn't a 1:1 ratio. I don't know what it is, but if you just take into account the number of lives cut short by the streak of natural disasters of 2008, then there had better be a lot of lotto drawings this year.


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