You don’t understand risk.
I don’t mean you, in your professional capacity. I mean you, the human being whose brain is desperately trying to keep you alive. An endless procession of mortal threats are trying to end your particular genomic variation, forcing your brain to respond first and think later.
Your existence is threatened by hungry predators, roving bands of Neanderthals, poison mushrooms and all manner of germs.
What’s that you say? You don’t live on a savannah where lions hunt, and there haven’t been any Neanderthals for 30,000 years?
That is irrelevant to your risk-calculating engine. Your wetware was optimized during a period when those were the highest potential threats to your well-being. Humans who failed to avoid those didn’t manage to pass on their DNA, becoming someone else’s lunch.
Let’s look at some of the world’s top predators as an example of risk in the modern world. Start with the shark, that fearsome, perfectly evolved eating machine. Immortalized in Steven Spielberg’s 1975 film, “Jaws,” and star of the Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week,” “the longest-running cable television programming event in history,” according to the Wall Street Journal. Can you imagine how many humans are devoured by this fearsome predator each year?
That’s right, less than a dozen of the 7 billion people on the planet succumb to death by shark each year.
Well, we live on land, what about lions? About 100, and most of those people live right there in the lion’s habitat, that savannah mentioned a few paragraphs earlier.
There are other large predators that each year manage to whittle down a few off of that 7 billion number: Elephants (100), hippos (500), crocodiles (1,000), snakes (50,000). Even man’s best friend, the dog, is responsible for 25,000 deaths, almost all because of rabies.