Sharks Stun But Pigs Kill

“More people are killed every year by pigs than by sharks, which shows you how good we are at evaluating risk.” – Bruce Schneier author of Beyond Fear.

Seth Godin’s recent Shark Attack! post reminded me of the Bruce Schneier quote above. Schneier’s ITConversation’s interview is a fantastic discussion on risk and decision making.

His point and Seth’s are the same – it’s not the infrequent and spectacular events that will impact us the most. It’s the common and banal ones. The old frog-boiling myth comes to mind here.

Part of the issue is one of storytelling. Shark attacks, because of their infrequency, make good stories. Stories that spread quickly. Stories worth a couple of news reports and least one theatrical release. Unfortunately, the educational value (“how is my life better now that I know this?”) is proportionally inverse. As always, there are a couple exceptions.

Going back to Seth’s analogy, here in the upper Midwest, we do have a fair number of Deer Crossing signs on our back roads. I suspect a deer accident story wouldn’t be met with cries to blockoff the roadways.