Activists from Rise and Resist, with co-sponsors 350NYC, Food and Water Watch New York, and 350 Brooklyn gathered at the Koch Plaza outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC to call for urgent action to demand the rejection of climate denial.
Activists from Rise and Resist, with co-sponsors 350NYC, Food and Water Watch New York, and 350 Brooklyn gathered at the Koch Plaza outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC to call for urgent action to demand the rejection of climate denial.

Perception and interpretation

In this activity, we will further consider the domain of risk.

The domain of risk reflects the awkward space away from what we know. This can potentially be summarised by the former US Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, in his famous quote:

As we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones.

(Rumsfeld 2002)

Risk inhabits the area where our thoughts and imagination are at their limits and describes a terrain where we cannot fathom what lies there in terms of its scope, content or depth.

It starts with the unimaginable and zooms forward from there. It’s vast and overwhelms our ability to measure it and because it operates conspicuously and insidiously alongside our sense of reality. We cannot grasp how it undermines, dislodges and disrupts our best sense of risk management.

The biggest fallacy in risk management is assuming we know all the risks and that they can be managed somehow. This is patently absurd but we seem fascinated by it nonetheless.

In terms of day to day risk management, at a personal level we may be good at perceiving and balancing risks but when risks become more removed it becomes harder to define the parameters and variables leading to the potential for lethal miscalculation.

Your task

Can you think of an example where the public perception of a risk does not match with the actual likelihood of that risk coming to fruition?


References

Rumsfeld, D. (2002) DoD News Briefing – Secretary Rumsfeld and Gen. Myers [online] 12 February. available from https://archive.defense.gov/Transcripts/Transcript.aspx?TranscriptID=2636 [11 July 2019]

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This article is from the free online course:

Foundations in Resilience, Security and Emerging Technology

Coventry University