Today, there was an article about risks et al in the newspaper, in the context of avalanches and protective gear and more. This is one of the topics I enjoy reading about, for a couple of reasons.
One of them is my impression that we, here in Switzerland and in some other spots, try to move towards a zero risk culture. Which, in my humble opinion, is very wrong. Because zero risk does not exist, except maybe that our risk to live forever is zero. Zero risk translates into a couple of things: Kids growing up without being given the chance to develop a realistic apprehension of what risk means when climbing up a tree. I am convinced that my falling down (a little) tree as kid helps me to go through my life, not because I climb trees these days, but because I learned a couple of lessons, falling down… Imagine a business world, creative world, perfume world, where all risk is eliminated. No allergens. Safety sprays that are children safe. Non flammable by addition of flame retardants. And no risky new formulas that might not work on the market.
From there you can do the next step and ask about legislation and legislators: What risk do they actually try to minimize. Is it a relevant risk, with high probability and large damage? I think the safety belt saved many lives and it is ok that legislator made it the law to buckle up because the risk of being injured is pretty high per kilometer on the road (although in general you might wonder whether any legislator has the right to tell you what to do as long as you do not harm anybody else. I prefer to live in a society that gives me the right to harm myself). I think however, the legislation about perfume ingredients is hard to justify, simply because the damage is minimal, even if the risk is somewhat higher. The same is true for many other domains. Perfume just happens to be the one where I have some insights.
I also like to think about risks because of statistics and the funny revelations that come with taking statistics seriously. Risk and frequency of occurrence and probability of sizes of losses all belong together. Here’s an example: There are events that are extremely rare, like BIG meteorites falling down on earth, But the probability that all human life comes to an end with a big meteorite falling down on earth is very, very high. Therefore, every day, the risk for humans to die due to a meteor falling down is actually pretty high. Even if it only happens every 60 million years or so.
One last word: Our societies’ risk aversions are directly linked to our being post heroic or to living in post heroic societies. With all the consequences. Here’s a long and intelligent article about being post heroic.
Finally…. when it comes to perfumes, I want to live in a heroic society.