Just started reading Beyond Fear by Bruce Schneier. He write a lot about actual risks versus perceived risks.
This really illustrates how subjective people's feelings about risk are. Looking at and talking about risk statistically compared to how we mentally deal with risk is interesting. Media coverage of human rights issues based on the closeness of the culture to ours is similarly subjective. The fact is, mentally, the value of a life depends on the context. We are all very subjective. Acting like we aren't clouds the issues. Journalists who say they are impartial and politicians who represent "everyone" all run this risk. Bruce's book takes a very pragmatic approach to risk, trying to describe the actual quantifiable risks, but also describing all of the factors that are involved in the decisions about security methods to deal with those risk.Bruce Schneier - Beyond FearIn America, automobiles cause 40,000 deaths every year; that's the equivalent of a full 727 crashing every day and a half -- 225 total in a year. As a society, we effectively say that the risk of dying in a car crash is worth the benefits of driving around town. But if those same 40,000 people died each year in fiery 727 crashes instead of automobile accidents, you can be sure there would be significant changes in the air passenger systems. (I don't mean to harp on automobile deaths, but riding a car is the riskiest discretionary activity the majority of Americans regularly undertake.) Similarly, studies have shown that both drivers and passengers in SUVs are more likely to die in accidents than those in compact cars, yet one of the major selling points of SUVs is that the owner feels safer in one.
I'll post more about this book as I continue to read it. (I read slowly...)
PS It's interesting to note that traffic accidents account for about 10,000 deaths a year in Japan compared to 30,000+ deaths due to suicide. You're 3 times more likely to commit suicide than get in a deadly traffic accident in Japan.