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Risky Business

Why seeking to avoid risk is gambling with your future

IT IS WIDELY believed that Scotland is an inherently I conservative country, in the sense of the “canny Scot”, the person who always seeks to minimise risk before acting. Whether or not that is the case, is it such a good thing to be risk averse? To explore this further we need to look at what risk is.

In the dim and distant past I was fortunate enough to work with computer models of risk analysis, such as were used in determining everything from financial strategies to oil-well drilling plans. A necessary part of such modelling was the definition of risk itself. Now to most people, and even to some who should know better, risk is thought of as something which carries a severe penalty. For example, he risked his life by diving into the sea to rescue his dog. Indeed one part of risk is the penalty which could happen if an event happens. This, however, is only part of the picture. The other part is the chance that the event itself actually happens. In the case of the man diving into the sea, the penalty is the loss of his life, and the chance of that is highly variable, from very low, for a very strong swimmer in calm conditions near shore, to significant for a weak swimmer in stormy weather with strong currents near rocks.

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About iScot Magazine

The 52nd issue in the colossal series that is iScot The Mag! The magazine for folks who don’t do mags!