Friday, July 8, 2005


I like London, and have had a chance to be there many times both on business and for pleasure. The news of the terrorist bombings there is very sad. I had responsibility for a computer center about a block from the Kings Cross tube station, and used those trains often.

So I ask myself, if I were still doing business in London, and it's six months from now and there have been no further bombings in London, would I just shrug today off and go back to riding the Tube as part of my daily commute? I'd like to think the answer would be 'yes,' because I've decided not let the terrorists win by causing me to make my life less convenient as a result of this one event. But I think the answer would be 'yes,' instead because I would no longer feel threatened, and riding the Tube is just the most sensible way to get around.

Let's create a Risk/Reward Ratio using the following anchor points:

1 = I feel completely safe. I would feel okay if my kid were in this situation
10 = bad things have happened here, but it's rare, and I can control how much risk I take
100 = bad things have happened here recently, and the victim was powerless to prevent or stop it
1 = The outcome for me is meaningless, regardless of whether I had any influence over the result
10 = if it didn't take too much sacrifice (time, money, effort, annoyance), I would seek this outcome
100 = I would make considerable effort to experience this outcome

Here's some thought experiements:

Getting to ride in a nuclear submarine: 10/100 = 0.10. Maybe a little cheat because I can't really do much to control the risk, but this would be about 1000 on the reward scale for me.

Riding my motorcycle a long distance to visit, or ride with, a good friend: 10/10 = 1.0. I have done and continue to do this regularly. It's fun, not worth too much effort or sacrifice.

Bungee jumping from the New River Gorge Bridge: 10/1 = 10.0. There's just no way I would do this.

This calibration says that the larger the ratio, the less likely I am to undertake the activity; while the closer to zero it gets the more likely I am. So if I were in London today, how would I score the ratio in respect to deciding whether I get on the Tube or not. I think it would be 100/10 = 10.0 and that I would be about as likely to get on the Tube today as jumping from the
New River Gorge Bridge with elastic ropes tied to my ankle.

Let's say that one year from now, there have been no further attacks in London. What's my score on the same question? I think it would be back to the blase 10/10 = 1.0. I'd get on the train without much regard to the events of July 7, 2005. This is the mode the governments of the US and the UK want us to return to as soon as possible. It won't take all that long -- just a few days for most folks.

The truly brave and defiant folks would also have a Risk/Reward result of 1.0. But for them, the calculation is 100/100 = 1.0. They want to get on a train on the exact route and the same time and thumb their noses at the terrorists.

What's sad is that I think there's a large portion of 1/1 = 1.0 folks out there. They don't feel any risk, and aren't getting much of kick from life either. Their lives are lived in little boxes of their own making. I'd rather be a little scared of bombs than live like that...

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