“We live in an age of fear”, says Dan Gardner in the opening pages of Risk: The Science and Politics of Fear. Despite the fact that you are more likely to live for longer and healthier now than any other time in human history, we are constantly afraid for our lives.
Homo sapien has been around for over 50,000 years. For much of this time we were hunter gatherers. Those who learned to fear the unknown were the ones who lived the longest. Thus, this trait was passed on down the generations until it became ingrained into our cognitive anatomy.
But for the past 3 or 4 centuries we have not been of that world. Most of the world’s people do not need to hunt for their food. With more than half of the global population living in cities we have become Homo sapien urbanus. But 50,000 years of evolution is hard to forget. Our intuition, still hard wired as a hunter gather, has been thrown into the urban mayhem that is modern life.
It is therefore not surprising that our instinct gets things wrong.
Using clear and elegant prose Dan Gardner explains the results of decades of psychological research on why our rational, logical mind often loses out to irrational gut instinct. And how modern day politicians, journalists and marketers have exploited our instinctive misunderstanding of risk to forward their agendas, stories and products. The author echoes President Franklin Roosvelt who famously said that ” the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself”
Filled with illuminating real world examples and interviews with experts, Risk: The Science and Politics of Fear is an engaging and thought provoking read that will make you question the decisions you make.
I believe this book should be a staple for everyone interested in understanding the science and perceptions of risk.