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Risk Savvy: How to Make Good Decisions (Englisch) Gebundene Ausgabe – 17. April 2014

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Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende

Gerd Gigerenzer is the author of Gut Feelings. He is currently the director of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, Germany, and lectures around the world on the importance of proper risk education for everyone from school-age children to prominent doctors, bankers, and politicians.

Leseprobe. Abdruck erfolgt mit freundlicher Genehmigung der Rechteinhaber. Alle Rechte vorbehalten.

Praise for Gerd Gigerenzer’s Work

“Logic be damned! . . . Gigerenzer delivers a convincing argument for going with your gut.”

—Men’s Health

“All innumerates—buyers, sellers, students, professors, doctors, patients, lawyers and their clients, politicians, voters, writers, and readers—have something to learn from Gigerenzer.”

—Publishers Weekly

“Gladwell drew heavily on Gigerenzer’s research. But Gigerenzer goes a step further by explaining just why our gut instincts are so often right.”

—Businessweek

“[Gigerenzer] has the gift of exposition and several times gives the reader that Eureka! feeling.”

—The Telegraph (UK)

“Gerd Gigerenzer, director of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, locates specific strategies that the unconscious mind uses to solve problems. These are not impulsive or capricious responses, but evolved methods that lead to superior choices.”

—The Boston Globe

PENGUIN BOOKS

RISK SAVVY

Gerd Gigerenzer is the author of Gut Feelings. He is currently the director of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, Germany, and lectures around the world on the importance of proper risk education for everyone from school-age children to prominent doctors, bankers, and politicians.

Creativity requires the courage to let go
of certainties.

Erich Fromm

To be alive at all involves some risk.

Harold Macmillan

1

Are People Stupid?

Knowledge is the antidote to fear.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Remember the volcanic ash cloud over Iceland? The subprime disaster? How about mad cow disease? Each new crisis makes us worry until we forget and start worrying about the next one. Many of us found ourselves stranded in crowded airports, ruined by vanishing pension funds, or anxious about tucking into a yummy beef steak. When something goes wrong, we are told that the way to prevent further crisis is better technology, more laws, and bigger bureaucracy. How to protect ourselves from the next financial crisis? Stricter regulations, more and better advisers. How to protect ourselves from the threat of terrorism? Homeland security, full body scanners, further sacrifice of individual freedom. How to counteract exploding costs in health care? Tax hikes, rationalization, better genetic markers.

One idea is absent from these lists: risk-savvy citizens. And there is a reason.

“Human beings are fallible: lazy, stupid, greedy and weak,” an article in the Economist announced.1 We are said to be irrational slaves to our whims and appetites, addicted to sex, smoking, and electronic gadgets. Twenty-year-olds drive with their cell phones glued to their ears, oblivious to the fact that doing so lowers their reaction time to that of a seventy-year-old. A fifth of Americans believe that they are in the top 1 percent income group and just as many believe that they will soon be there. Bankers have little respect for people’s ability to invest money, and some doctors tell me that most of their patients lack intelligence, making it pointless to disclose health information that might be misunderstood in the first place. All of this points to the conclusion that Homo sapiens (“man the wise”) is a misnomer. Something has gone wrong in our genes. Evolution seems to have cheated us with shabby mental software and miswired our brains. In short, John and Jane Q. Public need continuous guidance, as a child needs a parent. Although we live in the high-tech twenty-first century, some form of paternalism is the only viable strategy: Close the doors, collect the experts, and tell the public what’s best for them.

This fatalistic message is not what you will read in this book.2 The problem is not simply individual stupidity, but the phenomenon of a risk-illiterate society.

Literacy—the ability to read and write—is the lifeblood of an informed citizenship in a democracy. But knowing how to read and write isn’t enough. Risk literacy is the basic knowledge required to deal with a modern technological society. The breakneck speed of technological innovation will make risk literacy as indispensable in the twenty-first century as reading and writing were in previous centuries. Without it, you jeopardize your health and money, or may be manipulated into unrealistic fears and hopes. One might think that the basics of risk literacy are already being taught. Yet you will look in vain for it in most high schools, law schools, medical schools, and beyond. As a result, most of us are risk illiterate.

When I use the general term risk savvy I refer not just to risk literacy, but also more broadly to situations where not all risks are known and calculable. Risk savvy is not the same as risk aversion. Without taking risks, innovation would end, as would fun, and courage would belong to the past. Nor does risk savvy mean turning into a reckless daredevil or BASE jumper, denying the possibility of landing on one’s nose. Without a beneficial degree of caution, humans would have ceased to exist long ago.

You might think, why bother if there are experts to consult? But it isn’t that simple. Bitter experience teaches that expert advice may be a dangerous thing. Many doctors, financial advisers, and other risk experts themselves misunderstand risks or are unable to communicate them in an understandable way. Worse, quite a few have conflicts of interest or are so afraid of litigation that they recommend actions to clients they would never recommend to their own families. You have no choice but to think for yourself.

I’d like to invite you into the world of uncertainty and risk, beginning with weather reports and a very humble hazard, getting soaked.

Chances of Rain

A weathercaster on U.S. television once announced the weather this way:

The probability that it will rain on Saturday is 50 percent. The chance that it will rain on Sunday is also 50 percent. Therefore, the probability that it will rain on the weekend is 100 percent.

Most of us will smile at this.3 But do you know what it means when the weather report announces a 30 percent chance of rain tomorrow? 30 percent of what? I live in Berlin. Most Berliners believe that it will rain tomorrow 30 percent of the time; that is, for seven to eight hours. Others think that it will rain in 30 percent of the region; that is, most likely not where they live. Most New Yorkers think both are nonsense. They believe that it will rain on 30 percent of the days for which this announcement is made; that is, there will most likely be no rain at all tomorrow.4

Are people hopelessly confused? Not necessarily. Part of the problem is the experts who never learned how to explain probabilities in the first place. If they clearly stated the class to which a chance of rain refers, the confusion would disappear. Time? Region? Days? What meteorologists intend to say is that it will rain on 30 percent of the days for which this prediction is made. And “rain” refers to any amount above some tiny threshold, such as 0.01 inches.5 Left on their own, people intuitively fill in a reference class that makes sense to them, such as how many hours, where, or how heavily it rains. More imaginative minds will come up with others still. As one woman in New York said, “I know what 30 percent means: Three meteorologists think it will rain, and seven not.”

Here is my point. New forecasting technology has enabled meteorologists to replace mere verbal statements of certainty (“it will rain tomorrow”) or chance...

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A great book that really shows how numbers lead us astray in fields such as medicine, finance, etc. Although a number of other books have been written on this topic this book really shines and has a lot of new info to add to the field. A good read.
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Für meinen Geschmack ist das Buch schrecklich in Englisch geschrieben, zumal der Autor ein Deutscher ist und vermutlich vom Deutschen ins Englische übersetzt wurde. Inhaltlich durchaus lesenswert.
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Excellent text with a particularly accessible didactic structure. Reading is a pleasure, funny and ironic with intelligent quotes, equilibrated judgement and no bashing, full of common sense.
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The first part of the book was not very interesting but the book got more interesting as I read further.
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He not only gives a lot of usefull information, but also inspires by the way he deals with his work.
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