Complexity and risk reduction

[ 9/9/20 comment to Eric Klein on Lifeboat Foundation facebook page]

Let me be explicit in what I was pointing to with that attempt at humour (sometimes autistic spectrum geeks don’t do humour well).

Trying to stay out of the way of risk really isn’t a useful strategy when one is embedded in a really complex system, and one’s survival is linked to the survival of others in ways we are barely conscious of.

What can work, is using multiple strategies to move probabilities a small way in your favour.

That is essentially what I did 10 years ago, when an oncologist sent me home “palliative care only” with “terminal melanoma” (multiple liver tumours found after I had a 6.5 hours surgery, and I had no resources to survive further major surgery).

What I did was look for any set of strategies that could move the probability of my immune system working to eliminate the cancer in my favour. Each one on its own might only have contributed a little, but in combination, they worked. With a lot of trial and error I have settled on what seems to be a minimum set for my particular biochemistry and situation. I have been tumour free for 9.5 years.

Almost 4 years ago we had a 7.8 earthquake here in Kaikoura, and all roads in and out were destroyed by massive landslides (the major road took over a year to restore). I was prepared for the quake – with independent power, water and food for months – but no-one else was. It very quickly became apparent that in reality I was only as safe as most others were. I didn’t know when we would have a big quake, but I did know that big quakes happen every 200 years or so, and the last one was over 100 years ago, and I planned on living here for several thousand years – so I was prepared.

I am now very clear that the only way any of us has a reasonable probability of living a very long time with reasonable degrees of freedom is if we create conditions where everyone has a reasonable probability of living a very long time with reasonable degrees of freedom. And that is a deeply complex thing, that we can all make a difference in, by making many tiny changes in what we say and do.

That is why I got involved in Lifeboat. To make some small effort in a direction that is survivable – to make a public signal.

Even in a joke – it is the complete opposite of “holding one’s breath”.

Sometimes the subtle signals we send to our subconscious are important.

Not sure how much I am over-interpreting, or misunderstanding, and I am being as explicit as I can be, given the depths of complexity and risk and urgency present.

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see www.tedhowardnz.com/money
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