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Risk aversion - Many a mickle maks a muckle

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December 29th, 2003


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02:56 am - Risk aversion
Hooray, it's leiabelle's birthday! I hope it is filled with great joy and contentment, Erin, and that it signals the start of an exciting and fulfilling year. :-)

pseudonomas, not so long ago, quoted Simon Jenkins from The Times. Having very much enjoyed his sport writing in the past, I tried this opinion piece of his, a strongly-worded polemic from a civil libertarian perspective. Most of the first dozen or so paragraphs take the form "I hate (blight of modern society x). I hate it for (good reason y) and (good reason z). But ban it, as the government intends? Never." Now, as I've said before, I tend to take the authoritarian viewpoint on things and so tend to prefer the opposite conclusion, favouring legislation and bans. See, for instance, the post immediately previous.

A very provocative article, though. I did like the third last para, suggesting that The madcap negligence settlements now propagated by the courts should be restricted by statute and reasonable levels of insurance. The concept of the accident should be re-established in common law. Moreover, I was extremely interested and very surprised by the second last para: safety red tape and regulation does not avoid risk. [...] Additional enforced safety merely shifts the public’s risk tolerance to new thresholds of danger. This tolerance appears constant. Enforce seatbelts and people drive more dangerously to compensate. Very much contrary to what I would have thought. Accordingly, I have investigated further.

Since then, I have been looking at some of John Adams' publications. The Social Consequences of Hypermobility (OK, I read the abridged version!) challenged an assumption of mine, that mobility was inherently desirable. I don't agree with all the conclusionsl the predictions for distance travelled using various methods look open to criticism, not least because little explanation for them is given. Another statement I found very contentious: In hypermobile societies old-fashioned geographical communities are replaced by aspatial communities of interest - we spend more of our time, physically, in the midst of strangers. The advantages of mobility are heavily advertised; the disadvantages of hypermobility receive much less attention. The first half sums up online participation; the Internet is great because it lets you find people like you.

A very interesting piece, because it pointed out the negative aspects to some of the things which I were convinced had far more advantages than disadvantages. It has also pointed out to me that I am, in fact, strongly risk-averse and part of the reason why I enjoy games so much may well be that they provide a safe space in which I can be considerably more risky without putting things which matter to me in jeopardy. I note that there are some games which can deliberately be played in risk-averse and risk-prone fashions and in which I tend to overtly favour risk-avert strategies; I am also strongly fascinated by games which play with the boundaries of games' traditional capabilities - particularly games with stakes, immersive games, rule-changing games and the like. It would be wrong to ascribe my own properties to LiveJournalists in general, but I wonder if this sort of conclusion resonates with many of you.

I can think of opportunities I've missed and suspect a large part of the motivation has been through risk-aversion; while it's true to say that I have done (and continue to do) interesting things over the years, they tend to be those which incorporate higher degrees of risk. I also suspect that LiveJournal tends to cater to the risk-averse, because it's easier to write about something and try to get (and learn from and absorb) other people's experiences of it than it is to go out and do it yourself. No immediate attitude changes overnight, but as ever, interesting to be confronted with the other side of the argument.

Incidentally, Professor Adams points to Just Around The Corner (link to a web page with an embedded .pdf file - prepare to crank up the magnification if required) which contains musings about the future of crime and how different sets of technologies and social attitudes might affect the sorts of crimes prevalent in the future. This was the first time I was aware that the Department of Trade and Industry had its own team of futurologists; Foresight is just such a team.

In lighter matters: I am convinced The Fast Show will stand the test of time as being as influential within the UK, relative to other comedy shows of its generation, as Monty Python's Flying Circus; Red Dwarf remains a work of genius with successive series up to at least series 5 (possibly series 6) being better than the one before, with series 5 episode 6 ("Back To Reality") a particular highlight; Crawford's Milk Chocolate Rings earn a very high biscuit recommendation for their fine chocolate, extremely crunchy texture (bordering on inviting accusations of burntness, but not in a bad way) and the fact that a single biscuit is remarkably satisfying despite its small size. Can there be a better 38 calories and 1.7 grams of fat of chocolate biscuit? (Less than half a Homewheat? Pshaw!)
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
Current Music: Chanel 9 in my head

(6 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:xnera
Date:December 28th, 2003 07:35 pm (UTC)
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Geez, are we on the same wavelength tonight or what? Witness this AIM convo:

xnera23: i feel like lately I've been a little more reactionary. letting the fear of people's responses prevent me from reaching out to others.
: huh.
: I wonder why
xnera23: this is why I've been telling little lies to customers at work, because I fear their responses
: ooooooooh.
: *nod*
xnera23: this is also why I haven't booked a flight to WenchCon yet. I fear that I will have a horrid time
: :-(
xnera23: Jean thinks I should go and be amongst my friends.
: absolutely :-)
xnera23: in a way it's almost easier to play DDR with strangers at GameWorks than it is to go meet all y'all. because there's nothing invested with the strangers. but there's already an emotional connection with all y'all
xnera23: and if I were to lose that... eek

It just seems that I focus on what there is to lose rather than what there is to gain.

It has also pointed out to me that I am, in fact, strongly risk-averse and part of the reason why I enjoy games so much may well be that they provide a safe space in which I can be considerably more risky without putting things which matter to me in jeopardy.

Yes, this. Therapy, for me, is a very safe space. There's only one other person in the room, and they're being paid to listen to you spill your guts, so they have to at least pretend that you're not entirely crazy. ;) Livejournal used to be a safe space for me, too, but it seems that as more people friend me, the less I open up. I've been friend-locking an awful lot of posts lately, much more than I ever did. I'm not happy about that. Heck, I wish I could just post anything these days. I've been so, so withdrawn lately. It is making me quite unhappy.
[User Picture]
From:xnera
Date:December 28th, 2003 07:36 pm (UTC)
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ack, I tried changing my friend's name to <friend> but forgot to escape the brackets. ah well, you get the idea.
[User Picture]
From:jiggery_pokery
Date:January 12th, 2004 05:19 am (UTC)
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Geez, are we on the same wavelength tonight or what

I have a suspicion that this is probably not all that uncommon among LiveJournalists.

It just seems that I focus on what there is to lose rather than what there is to gain.

I have a suspicion that this is probably not all that uncommon among humans. :-)
[User Picture]
From:bateleur
Date:December 29th, 2003 02:03 am (UTC)

Games and Risk

(Link)
I'm pretty risk-averse myself most of the time... but you do have to be a bit careful what you classify as risk. I have no problem with undertaking plans with significant chance of failure, provided that failure costs pretty much nothing. By contrast, I wouldn't want to undertake even one car journey without a seatbelt, since I'd be too worried about the possibility of a crash despite never having been involved in one in 12 years of driving.

So maybe I fit your profile... On the other hand I wouldn't say I like games for their capacity to let me play with risk. Most games I play in a relatively low-risk style (where strategically viable). If there's a difference between my handling of games and real life it's primarily that IRL I'm a pacifist, whereas in a game context I'm very fond of wargames, guns etc.
[User Picture]
From:addedentry
Date:January 11th, 2004 08:31 am (UTC)
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For myself, I too am strongly risk-averse, and this self-identification was useful for a few quid whenever the Department of Experimental Psychology wanted such volunteers. It extends to games because one of the risks I fear is looking stupid.

For society, though, I agree with Simon Jenkins. A phrase as foolish as 'The innocent have nothing to fear' is 'This will be justified if even one life is saved': as it might be, 'massive fare increases and prolonged engineering work on the railways are justified if even one life is saved', or 'police harassment and wrongful convictions through identity cards are justified if even one life is saved', or 'Zimbabwe's decision to reject GM food in the midst of a famile is justified if even one life is saved'.

I don't know if this contradiction needs to be resolved.
[User Picture]
From:jiggery_pokery
Date:January 12th, 2004 05:43 am (UTC)
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For myself, I too am strongly risk-averse, and this self-identification was useful for a few quid whenever the Department of Experimental Psychology wanted such volunteers.

Dude, I'm so risk-averse -- how risk-averse am I? -- that I didn't dare even take part in any of the DEP's experiments. I think I even told one EP from the year above that I would volunteer for one of his and chickened out in the end.

The area of ethics in experimental psychology is a subject I find really troubling, but important.

It extends to games because one of the risks I fear is looking stupid.

Oh, me too! Us all, to an extent. However, this does go back to the discussion of schadenfreude we were having six weeks ago.

liuxia: I also think you're vastly underestmating the importance of negative reinforcement in human behavior. Not everyone is wired to respond well to positive reinforcement; in fact, I think most aren't. The fear most people of being embarassed, humiliated, laughed at, scorned, etc etc, is one of the most potent forms of control and social conditioning we have.

She has a point. I hate the fact it's true and hate the concept of playing upon that fact, but that doesn't stop it from being true.

Just going through old comments and replying to them myself - fingers crossed the next comment is a lot, lot fluffier... :-)

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