An economist offers a surprising reinterpretation of risk - and how our efforts to make our lives, businesses and world a safer place can actually have the opposite effect.
Over the past century, we have learned a staggering amount about human nature and how to deal with disaster - yet we keep having car crashes, floods and financial crises. Why is this so?
The answer is partly that our desire to make life safer inevitably comes into conflict with the equally irrepressible desire to make things bigger and more complicated. It is our nature to safeguard our world - and yet sometimes, more often than we realise, the very things we create to protect ourselves, end up being the things that threaten our safety and well-being. Take for example anti-locking braking systems on cars - designed to stop us skidding, they actually encourage us to drive faster. Or the 2008 financial crisis - did the steps taken to make the economy more stable in the preceding years encourage behaviour that made a new, devastating crisis inevitable?
Experience shows us that we can never build a completely foolproof system because humans will always find a way to muck it up. But we can learn from past mistakes and understand that in order to thrive, we must not take the reckless path or the path that seems safest, but a measure of something in between. In engaging stories and practical takeaways Foolproof shows us how to stop trying to make the world unbreakable, and take advantage of risk.
About the Author
Greg Ip is the chief columnist on economics for the Wall Street Journal, before which he was the U.S. Economics Editor for The Economist, where he covered the economy, financial markets, and monetary, fiscal and regulatory policy. In 2002 Ip was part of a team from the Wall Street Journal Staff who shared a Pulitzer Prize in breaking news for covering the September 11 attacks. He is the author of The Little Book of Economics.