TIME : Risk (Expert Opinion : Part 6 of 6)

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

REAL AND PERCEIVED RISK

It’s not impossible for us to become sharper risk handicappers.  For one thing, we can take the time to learn more about the real odds.  Baruch Fischhoff, professor of social and decision sciences at Carnegie Mellon University, recently asked a panel of 20 communications and finance experts what they thought the likelihood of human-to-human transmission of avian flu would be in the next three years.  They put the figure at 60%.  He then asked a panel of 20 medical experts the same question. Their answer: 10%.  “There’s reason to be critical of experts,” Fischhoff says, “but not to replace their judgment with laypeople’s opinions.”…..The residual parts of our primitive brains may not give us any choice beyond fighting or fleeing.  But the higher reasoning we’ve developed over millions of years gives us far greater–and far more nuanced–options.  Officials who provide hard, honest numbers and a citizenry that takes the time to understand them would not only mean a smarter nation, but a safer one…..

Reference : http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1562978-1,00.html

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