Thursday, December 31, 2015

Assessing personal risk from terrorism

IVN published a Dissident Politics article on the very real difficulty of rationally assessing personal risks from terrorism (and other threats). The personal risk of death from a terrorist attack on any given American in any given year is very low, about 1 in 20 million. Despite that low risk, over 50% of Americans who planned to travel recently changed their plans by canceling, changing or delaying their travel.

The reason is that the unconscious human mind, which controls reactions to fear, does not use statistics to assess risk and thus we unconsciously but grossly overestimate risk. Thirty percent of average Americans believe that their personal chance of dying from a terrorist attack is 100% (1 in1), not 1 in 20 million, of being killed by a terrorist in the next 12 months. In other words, 30% of Americans believe they personally will be attacked within the next year, which amounts to an incorrectly perceived 100% or 1:1 chance. Based on the statistics, that wildly incorrect belief in the likelihood of personal attack in the next year is 20 million times too high. However, that is perfectly reasonably, not too high, by the "logic" of false but persuasive, unconscious human physiological or 'psycho-logic', not real or statistics-based, unbiased logic.

In view of the data, not anyone's opinion, it is objectively irrational for anyone to change their travel plans unless a specific, credible threat exists. Despite that fact (not opinion) many people nonetheless do change their behavior despite no significant threat.[1]

The bottom line is that to think and act rationally or objectively about risk, the rational mind has to impose statistics into our unconscious thinking when it is relevant. Most people simply don't do that. The press-media and politicians foster irrational emotions such as this kind of unfounded fear and, indirectly, that fosters the irrational thinking and actions that flow from such fear. Under those circumstances, it is no wonder that Americans overreact - they are being deceived into misunderstanding by a self-serving two-party system, including the press-media industry, that benefits more from public misunderstanding than from understanding.

The article is here.

1. A "significant threat" is defined as a threat that has more than a 1 in 10,000 chance of actually happening in the time frame and under the conditions in which the threat is perceived, e.g., within a 1-year period for threat of personal terrorist attack. That is a Dissident Politics definition. There is no widely accepted definition for a "significant threat", so that is how Dissident Politics (DP) defines it to make what DP argues make any sense at all. No doubt, some or many others will define it as zero per year, less than a 1 in 10,000/year or something lower. Given the reality of American society, that makes little objective sense.

The lack of definitions for most all terms in politics is why most all political debate/discourse is mostly meaningless and intellectually, mostly useless. The great selling point of such empty debate is that undefined terms in political debate reinforces the beliefs of people who want to believe what they want to believe instead of belief in what is real. Like it or not, most people easily and unconsciously distort reality, including actual threats of personal risk because that is just how the human mind evolved.

No comments:

Post a Comment