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A Rational Look At Risk Following Paris

Now that the Paris terrorist attacks have receded from news cycles, we have an opportunity to consider whether initial reactions were appropriate...
December 2, 2015

Now that the Paris terrorist attacks have receded from news cycles, we have an opportunity to consider whether initial reactions were appropriate. The attacks in Paris killed 130 people, injured hundreds more and instilled fear in millions of people who were not anywhere nearby. In the world of risk assessment, attacks from hackers and terrorists still compete with more traditional risks.

“We as human beings don’t perceive risk rationally,” said Martin Hartley, chief operating officer of PURE Insurance, an insurance company aimed at wealthy clients. He also said that the Paris terrorism “makes the risk seem far worse by its magnitude, not by its probability. That’s the challenge of risk.”

Which risks are worth guarding against? Roderick Jones, chief executive of Concentric Advisors, which provides digital and personal security services, said the real threat is cybercrime. “If you build a bunker to protect against an AK-47 but don’t protect your Internet browser, you’re missing the point,” said Jones.

In the world of risk assessment, attacks from hackers and terroristshave strong competition from more traditional risks. Hartley, the insurance executive, said car accidents are his biggest concern. And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the leading cause of death continues to be heart attacks.

While fear may sometimes seem rational, at the same time it may not be proportionate, or appropriate to the circumstances. The initial reaction to the outbreak of Ebola last year initially led to expressions of fear and panic in the U.S., some of it bordering on the irrational—despite the fact that we were well-protected, and there was never an outbreak of the disease here. Fear can also get whipped up by the media or by politicians.

A Rational Look At the Risk of Threats (New York Times 11/20/15)

 

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