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Posts Tagged ‘Statistics’

On any given day in the US in 2008 an average of about 148,000 people will die. Yawn. As the population swells it will grow larger. Yawn. As the population struggles with food, water, disease, contamination and war, those numbers will fluctuate higher and higher. Yawn. For many of us the numbers are so staggering that they don’t matter: 1+ million dead this week. Hummmm

 

There are the wars. Yawn. The US Government stopped totaling the body count on each side toward the end of the Vietnam War. Bad press for politicians, I guess. For Afghanistan and Iraq – and wars to come – Iran, North Korea, etc., that policy is continued. Good thing too. It continues to get harder to tell who the ‘other side’ is.

 

There is the US auto accident problem (3500/mo). Yawn. The US smoking problem: (42000/mo). Yawn. The US cardiovascular disease problem: (120,000/mo). Yawn.

 

But wait! There is an unsafe rollercoaster in Orlando! An alligator eats a cocker spaniel near a receding swamp in Mississippi and, heavens forbid, say it isn’t so!…an asteroid will hit Earth in the next 24.4 thousand years! YIKES!

 

Did you hear that airplanes are not being inspected? Bridges are unsafe. Baby bottles are contaminated by the plastic being used and don’t even mention the Chinese-made ingredients in heparin, toys, air conditioning parts and auto break pads.

 

The examples above represent that paradox according to the statistical probabilities that have been kept for the last 52 years. Clearly many of the things that will kill us we don’t value as dangerous. Other things we fear have a miniscule chance of harming us.

 

You are 109 X more likely to be injured in a car wreck on the way to the airport than to be injured in the airplane if you don’t get bumped.

A few things lead to this distorted view of what we value as good and what isn’t good that we fear.

 

Fear is conditioned just like eating habits are conditioned. Fear is based on losing what we value. Fear is the ‘other’ half of ‘magical thinking’ that comes from not knowing how to evaluate relationships between what is real and what is not real.

 

There is a hierarchy to fear. Not everyone’s hierarchy is the same but a hierarchy exists both for what we value and what we fear. They are related.

 

Our set of fears reflects our values; we engage or focus on what we value. We value what we were trained to value in our home, country, school, street corner or office. We value children… Children trump adults, having resources trumps resource dependency, helplessness trumps risky business and things close to home trump an Austrian engineer’s bazaar behavior. Circumstances around losing those things that we have learned or been trained to value is part of [conditioned] fear.

 

As big as the numbers are above they represent someone else’s world. They are nothing new; they lack ‘spectacle’. That is also conditioned. You can hardly be focused on car accidents if that is the only way to get to a job that makes you the money that affords you the luxuries of life, family, etc. In time, you learn to adjust, accomidate, to level what you have to do to get what you want to get.

 

Many dangerous things get conditioned to ignore: cholesterol, nicotine, sugar, over-medication, cell phones on the freeway and drugs that take the ability away to attend to consequences. That list is only 0.00000000002 % of the total list you might have.

 

Here is what is known. You are human. Your were born and you will die. You are more complex than any other organism on Earth and you are conditioned to be who you are with the material you brought to the table when you were born. Actuarial numbers don’t matter to those alive or to those that are dead. They won’t protect you nor comfort those at your funeral.

 

You will live to be an average of 76 (male) or so years if you are white and 72 (male) or so years if you are black living in the US. Your numbers are smaller if you fit in any of the categories and are in denial. You live longer if you plan to live longer and don’t get hit by one of those driving while eating an ice cream cone while text messaging, etc.

 

Real time you can use this rule of thumb:

  1. figure out what you value
  2. question what you fear
  3. figure out the consequences for all your behavior
  4. determine who benefits from you doing or not doing something

 

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