Why the reckless survive: and other secrets of human nature

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Melvin Konner wrote a book several years ago a book called 'Why the reckless survive: and other secrets of human nature'. The book reveals how the human species has evolved in spite of our terrible record of "risk-taking" skills.

As I recall, Konner asks us to consider a married couple driving down the road at high speed. They are both smoking, have been drinking all night, which is resulting in some very reckless driving. The radio news breaks in to their merry-making just then and the announcer reports that there has been a terrorist aircraft bombing, resulting in over one hundred tragic deaths. The husband, while weaving down the road in a drunken stupor then loudly proclaims that the couple definitely is calling off their upcoming vacation plans to fly to Europe because of the risk of danger.

In actuality, behavior such as displayed by the couple above is not uncommon at all and has resulted in endless attempts to create laws for mankind in an attempt to force us to limit our risk-taking regarding the natural laws of chemistry, motion, and force.

There are many other examples in the book, which goes on to explore how the reckless among us ever evolved in the first place. Hint: It has to do with the most aggressive risk-taking members of a social group leaving the safety of the cave and taking on the beasts of the day and (when victorious) sharing the meat of the beast with the pick of the clan, who perceive the risk-takers to be pretty good providers and subsequently raising young (and often aggressive) offspring.

In reading through this forum and pondering what is generally known as Y2K, I am constantly reminded of this book and how reckless our species is at critical thinking. (including me) Especially interesting is our eagerness to claim prescience when we really mean we have excellent 20/20 Hindsight.

I am eternally grateful for the exposure to critical thinking that I never possessed prior to my introduction to this situation. The lessons that I personally learned have included many weaknesses in the telecommunications infrastructure (and most probably the oil industry) that still exist today. Strategic solutions are beginning to be re-thought but we are just as vulnerable to earthquakes, floods, ice storms, and terrorism as we have been for years. Much of it has to do with economic risk-taking as opposed to contingency planning.

I am reasonably confident that our inherent weakness in risk-taking is what makes us especially vulnerable to feelings of confidence when reading things in the media. Or likewise, when we hear words of blind bravery from our leaders-pollsters.

Where do we head next? Well to ad lib, "Reckless is as reckless does".... Only time will tell when Y2K finally plays itself out. But it is never reckless to prepare for disasters.

In the meantime, we continue to evolve..

Thanks for the opportunity to use the forum.

-- Christopher (vetnet@msn.com), January 25, 2000


MAN, with his skill and pure dumb luck, survives again.

-- plonk! (realaddress@hotmail.com), January 25, 2000.

Thanks Christopher -- good points!

-- JoseMiami (caris@prodigy.net), January 25, 2000.

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