Friday, June 11, 2010

The human condition.

Apparently, to be human is to yearn, to strive, to live, to love... and to really, really suck at disaster planning and risk estimation.

(H/T to Random Nuclear Strikes.)


Jeff the Baptist said...

Maybe, or it may just be that their game design is too simplistic.

Joanna said...

I'd like to see the results from an older group of subjects -- say, 45-55 -- instead of just students. College students are notoriously poor decision makers to begin with.

Mark said...

Devil's Advocate here: This is a game. When you play a first-person shooter you'll say to yourself "I can dash across the room and shoot those four guys, I'll probably only get hit once or twice, and there's a medi-kit in the next room. Yeehaw!" You certainly wouldn't do such a thing in real life, at least not more than once. As we said when I was in school (studying Comp Sci) "Those who can, do. Those who can't, simulate."

Regarding Haiti, they didn't fail to upgrade their buildings because they wanted to earn interest on the money, they didn't have the money in the first place.

Tam said...

"...they didn't fail to upgrade their buildings because they wanted to earn interest on the money..."

Did someone say they had?

Jeff the Baptist said...

Mark is correct. Several people have compared the results of Gran Turismo variants and the real world at Laguna Seca. They're always faster virtually. Why? Because going through parts of the course at speed, like the corkscrew, is absolutely terrifying if your life is on the line.

I'm more concerned with the underlying premise of game. It is impossible to protect you from all potential natural disasters. Instead you use historical trends to pick and choose the largest sources of risk to protect against. The students may be cautious in the early game because they don't know the risk curve. They get more careless once they think they have it mapped.

Desertrat said...

Thanks for the find. I wasn't far into the article when "Black Swan" popped into mind, and sure enough!

All in all, the article made me feel smug. Guess I have been more rational than I thought I was. :-)

Chuckled at the $$$ along coastlines that hurricanes can harvest. I thought that irrationality had triumphed there--thirty-five years ago!

Instant gratification is not the optimum lifestyle...


Stranger said...

I have been preaching preparedness to a group of fifty 20 to 80 yo's who should know that disasters do happen. I started in 1989, and if the big one hit tomorrow, perhaps five would be prepared to survive longer than a week.

Two of the five are under thirty five, two more under fifty - and one geezer is pushing eight zero. Out of fifty. So I do not believe age has much to do with forethought. It does have a lot to do with not sticking a hand in a fire the second time.


TJP said...

Humans also bad at estimating the risk of legal action. For example: it will be expensive if id Software decides to defend its trademark.

Tam said...



Sebastian said...

It could be in conferred a survival advantage to not waste societal resources planning for low probability events. The tribe that built fire protections for their food supplies out west probably survived better than those that didn't, but those that did it in, say, Florida, might have just been wasting their time.

Of course, considering we're all toting guns around in anticipation of low probability events (for most of us), we're probably all genetically doomed :) That goes double if you're buying your ammo by the pallet load and burying in the yard.

Les Jones said...

I'll go the opposite direction and say the simulation was too optimistic.

Sure, in the real world the results are more real. But there also isn't someone standing over you saying "There are for sure going to be three to five earthquakes in your area over the next little while, guaranteed."

Likewise, the pleasures of a new car, big TV, fancy vacations and all the rest are more alluring than pretend interest on pretend money.

Finally, in the real world people say "Eff it. If an earthquake happens to hit I've got insurance."

randy said...

We gunnies see confirmation of this on an almost daily basis.

To wit; the number of people that generate PSH due to the "risk" of allowing law abiding citizens carry firearms, but think nothing of driving on an Interstate in an urban area during rush hour, having a swimming pool in the back yard with young kids in the house, etc.

LabRat said...

The most succint explanation of why humans have such faulty risk evaluation intuition is that the brain's hardware for perceiving and reacting to an immediate risk like a predator in the bushes is ancient and bombproof, but the software for connecting this system to abstract potential risks is still in very, very buggy beta.

markm said...

In the real world:

1. You don't know that there will be a significant earthquake in any particular decade. (If you did, probably the smartest move would be to live in a tent or other cheap, lightweight construction. If I understand correctly, the Japanese used to build with mats and bamboo poles; usually it would flex enough to survive a quake, but if it fell down, you just put it up again.)

2. You'll probably survive the collapse of a single-family house. If you're even in it when it hits.

3. Earthquake-proofing only works up to a point. Nor does it protect against the whole hillside sliding away, tsunamis, and fires.

4. There are other things out there that might kill you if you spent all your money on your house and didn't provide for them.

Bubblehead Les. said...

What Labrat said, but what is screwy is for Homo Sapiens to continue to live in high-risk areas KNOWING the inherent danger of that area,such as trailers in Tornado Alley, beach houses on barrier islands, villas near Mt. Vesuvius, etc. Yet the insanity goes on.

Charles Pergiel said...

Insane, crazy, bonkers. All the best people are - Alice.

Dance along the edge - Concrete Blond