Monday, March 28, 2011

Thank God We're Smarter Than [insert foriegn county here]

The headline reads: Japanese Rules for Nuclear Plants Relied on Old Science

In the end do we really believe that American nuclear interests understand risk any better or are less cost averse than those in a technologically sophisticated country like Japan? Remember, American financial experts believed that they had banished risk with credit default swaps and collateralized debt obligations.

Japanese nuclear officials are using that hoary phrase, "No one could have anticipated..." I hate to beat a dead horse here, but the Black Swan can not be wished away. For something as critical as a nuclear plant (or even many chemical plants) it is not enough to plan for the anticipated. Designs must be robust enough to handle the unanticipated or the project should not be done at.

The big question is whether this inability to evaluate risk properly is so ingrained in the structure of the human brain that it is impossible to overcome and hence humility demands that we limit the kind of activities we attempt. Call me a Neo-Luddite?

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