The Corner

The .3 Doctrine

In response to yesterday’s post about that earth-killing asteroid:

    Hi Mr. Goldberg,

I’ve heard an interesting definition of risk attributed to a Learned

Hand ruling: risk is the probability of a bad thing happening

multiplied by the severity of the harm if it happens.

Going by this definition, a seemingly small .3% chance of a

world-destroying asteroid striking are certainly not good enough to

justify doing nothing.  This kind of calculation also came up around

the publication a few months ago of Ron Suskind’s book, The One

Percent Doctrine.  The book knocked VP Cheney for saying that even

a 1% chance of terrorists getting nuclear weapons merits serious US

action to stop them.  But multiplying the 1% by the severity of a

nuclear terrorist attack in an American city makes Cheney’s

statement quite reasonable.  Not how it played in much of the

press, though.

 

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