What should you worry about?
April 10, 2007
What sorts of risks should you worry about? My previous post illustrated my surprise that contracting AIDS is much less likely than I thought [STDs are still a problem]. I used the odds of dying in a car accident as the baseline risk because it’s something that doesn’t worry me at all, yet it is quite high. Take a look at this graphic illustration of your odds of dying by various external causes. The odds of dying in a motor vehicle accident is 1 in 84. The only causes with higher odds are heart disease (1/5), cancer (1/7) and stroke (1/24). Consequently, I became a vegetarian, exercise regularly, never smoke nor chew tobacco, and am sort of a health nut. This doesn’t eliminate the odds of dying by these causes, but that’s all anyone can do to reduce those odds substantially.
People have a terrible sense of risk. The US government spends $100s of billions to protect us against terrorism, yet the odds of dying in a terrorist attack are infinitely small. There was lots of talk, and some terrible movies, about the remote risk of a large asteroid hitting the planet and wiping out humanity. Women are terrified of rape by a stranger, though date rape is far more common (80%). My mother was worried about murder rates in NYC since I moved here, but it turns out NYC is now one of the safest big cities in the country (safer than her city!). Furthermore, in NYC roughly 1/3 of murders are gang/drug related and 1/3 are disputes between people who know each other; therefore, the real risk for me is extremely low. Most of the things people worry about are irrational, while some things they don’t worry about (global warming) are a real and immediate risk.
So what do I worry about? Drivers in New York and New Jersey are so bad it does make me uncomfortable, so I take public transportation most of the time. I’m a little cautious about household accidents after I drove a knife through my hand. Not much else after that. What are you worried about?