In 2003, a Home Office report stated that 68 British children have been abducted that year by a stranger. With 11.4 million children under 16 living in the UK, that works out to a risk of one in 167,647. 158 people in Britain have died from the human variation of mad cow disease yet 12,000 Britons are killed each year by flu and related complications. In the tradition of Malcolm Gladwell, Dan Gardner explores a new way of thinking about the decisions we make. We are the safest and healthiest human beings who ever lived, and yet irrational fear of the risk we face in everyday life is growing, with deadly consequences - such as the 1,595 Americans killed when they made the mistake of switching from planes to cars after September 11. In part, this irrationality is caused by those who promote fear for their own gain - including politicians, activists and the media. Culture also matters. But a more fundamental cause is human psychology. Working with risk science pioneer Paul Slovic, author Dan Gardner sets out to explain in a compulsively readable fashion just how we make our decisions and run our lives. We learn that the brain has not one but two systems for analyzing risk.
One is primitive, unconscious, and intuitive. The other is conscious and rational. The two systems often agree, but occasionally they come to very different conclusions. When that happens, we can find ourselves worrying about what the statistics tell us is a trivial threat - terrorism, child abduction, cancer caused by chemical pollution - or shrugging off serious risks like obesity and smoking. Gladwell told us about the black box of our brains; Gardner takes us inside, helping us to understand how to deconstruct the information we're bombarded with and respond more logically and adaptively to our world. Risk is cutting-edge reading.
Dan Gardner is a columnist and senior writer for the Ottawa Citizen, specializing in criminal justice and other investigative issues. Trained in history and law, Gardner worked as a senior policy adviser to the premier and the minister of education before turning to journalism in 1997. His writing has received numerous awards, including the National Newspaper Award, Amnesty International's Media Award, and others. He lives in Ottawa with his wife and two children.