[FoRK] Risk Aversion (was: Extreme Life Extension...)

John Parsons bullwinklemouth at yahoo.ca
Thu Jun 24 14:09:47 PDT 2010

--- On Thu, 6/24/10, Jeff Bone <jbone at place.org>  wrote:

> PS - there is a significant ancillary concern lurking in here.  As various technologies for longevity modulo accident and trauma progress, does society become necessarily unhealthily risk-averse?

IS that the case? Shouldn't the ability to mitigate risk (i.e. longevity tech) lead to riskier behavior?

Risk may be considered to have a "fitness function" (a process by which natural selection takes place), and the ability to nullify risk might render that function (if not the physiological buzz) moot.

At the same time, risk-aversion is not always unhealthy. I suggest it tends to increase with age and experience, personally and societally. While it may necessarily happen as in Ken's response...

> Probably. I see that happening already with the way we raise our children and the way we allow our governments to increase the security blanket with little protest. Yes, I know that's not precisely aligned with your suggestion but I think it's all related. I think we are becoming much more risk-averse in general because we want to retain what we have -- living standards, health and longevity. And if cryonics begins to catch the public attention, making sure we are in a condition to take advantage of it.

I see this as behavior motivated by not wishing to repeat past painful episodes coupled with a materialistic philosophy that places value on accumulation. Perhaps it is the materialism which necessitates the extreme (unhealthy?) risk-aversion.

But there are different kinds of risks, which can be defined by their consequences. "Immediately life-threatening" is fairly easy for most people to grasp (there being a one-to-one correlation, so to speak), but "species/planet-altering" is pretty much lost on us. Why do we overachieve at the former, and do so poorly (despite all this big-brain intelligence) at the latter?

It would seem that as absolute risk increases the appropriate aversion should increase commensurately. Getting out of whack, either too much aversion or too little, is unhealthy.

[rant] Of course, the perception (of both the risk *and* the appropriate degree of aversion) is usually up to individuals, so the resultant bureaucratic administrative processes blossom like hemorrhoids, and we wind up with LCD results. {end rant]


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