Friday, August 03, 2007

Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt: Actual vs. Perceived Risk

Earlier today I watching CNN's Special Investigative Report Road to Ruin about aging bridges and dams throughout the country.

It's certainly timely, I wonder if they had this report in the pipeline before the Minneapolis bridge collapsed.

The report is fascinating in a morbid way, but it strikes me as another example of the media perpetuating fear, uncertainty, and doubt (or FUD)....

I find it bemusing that immediately after the bridge collapsed, many people thought it must be terrorism, not aging infrastructure.

I think this is an example of how it is difficult to evaluate risks dispassionately. Our minds tend to focus on sensational and fantastic risks, rather than mundane and common problems.

And that's one reason why the media often does us a disservice by emphasizing unusual cases which stick in our minds and exert pressure on officials to react to miniscule threats.

Security guru Bruce Schneier discusses this problem on his blog in a post about actual vs. perceived risks.

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