30 December 2010


I like this story (http://n.pr/hWrSbf ) about the Environmental
Protection Agency and Dioxin because it concerns risk.

There's risk you can identify beforehand and risk that sneaks up on

When you try to identify risk, you use tests. These tests will have
false positives and false negatives. In other words, you're going to
identify some things as risky that aren't, and vice versa.

Once you identify a risk, you have to gauge how severe is the risk. In
other words, what is the risk that something bad will happen to you,
how severe are the bad things that could happen to you, and what is
the overall risk you calculate from those numbers?

It's in the nature of government bureaucracies to use tests that have
a high false positive rate, and to act first, think later. So, you end
up with plenty of examples like dioxin, like saccharin, ...


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