Radiation in powers of 10 and a meditation on risk

XKCD had this neat Power of Ten Radiation chart which explains how much radiation is absorbed by humans in everyday sort of way and gives an idea of the scale of the radiation at Fukushima. Click on the chart for a link to the original article.

Edge had an interesting discussion on What We Cannot Predict (which used this chart) and had some knowledgeable people talking about the difficulties of getting our heads around Black Swan events and the Like. Of course Nassim Nicholas Taleb (link to Wikipedia article on Taleb) has made this ‘style of thinking’ his personal crusade as well.

My history in risk management led me to work with the concept of risk perception, assessment, control and mitigation as an integral part of general management. My basic philosophy was, as soon as a person has a goal, it has risks, and can start to think about them. And generally people do. Who doesn’t know someone who obsesses daily over all the things that could go wrong.

Of course, one way to avoid risk to our personal goals is to be a slacker. No goal, no risk.

And in business, a focus on performance management has lead to short term thinking and a certain myopia concerning risk. In my view risk management is a part of general management and performance management is not complete without risk management. Many companies do not build risk management into their performance management thinking. In addition to not performing proper risk management, companies can externalize the risk. And in the recent financial meltdown, the externalized risk of meltdown was borne in the last instance not by the risk takers, the financial corporations, but by the community of taxpayers and governments that they have formed.

Unfortunately, we are impinged upon by risks in our environment, or by companies that work in our neighborhood without a sufficient regard to the overall risk, such as happened at Fukushima.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>