Thursday, May 31, 2018

Is Engineering for Safety a BAD Idea?

Just read an article about safety engineering, and why, when designers try harder to incorporate safety features, people paradoxically act in less-safe ways.

It used to be that even daring kids had some limits to them. Oh, they might try to climb a tree that was too high, or tease a dog behind a fence. But, most often, even the most reckless kids had limits to their daring. They didn't deliberately tempt fate to the fatal, or near-fatal point.

Science is finding that risk-taking may have a genetic component.

However, the average kid had the ability to stop short of stupid. Sure, there were always the kids who played around the tracks, and died at a young age. There were the kids who fell from heights, and suffered severe injuries. And, as teens, those with the reckless gene would drive fast and engage in sex before marriage - with predictable results.

Shooting up schools? In my youth, just didn't happen. Despite the wide availability of guns in homes, that activity was unheard of. It took media to get that going. And, social media is a powerful goad to such over-the-top actions.

One researcher makes a point about risk.
Researchers who study risk-taking, particularly in the context of HIV infection, also struggle to find clear definitions. "You can't put shooting up with drugs and having sex with your husband in the same ballpark," says Mitch Katz, San Francisco's public health director. Many married people use no protection and society does not consider that risky, but if a partner injects drugs, a line gets crossed. "Early in the [AIDS] epidemic, one of the things we learned about women was that they were much more likely to become infected from their steady partners than their casual partners, because they were, from a medical standpoint, taking higher risks," he explains. But Katz does not necessarily put those people in the same category as high risk-takers, such as those who engage in backstreet racing or abuse alcohol.
The pill lead to a much higher level of risk for women. In the past, women with a greater tendency to take risks faced a greater chance of an unwanted pregnancy. Some married their partner. If they did not, very few kept those children. Most went away for a few months, after which time they returned, having learned a sad lesson. Welfare generally would NOT support them. If they kept their baby, they were on their own.

Even today, for women, the men they chose to associate with constitute one of their most important risk factors. If you chose a man who is a risk-taker, you have a much higher chance of being infected with diseases that can cause sterility, lifetime illness, or even death.

Even if a woman escapes that fate, the children that she bear may have a higher likelihood of engaging in similar risky behaviors. In the end, all of the actions for protecting people from the consequences of their actions might be increasing the percentage of risk-takers in our society.

Other findings from that article show that:
Bryan says that twin studies have revealed that impulsivity and high sensation-seeking run in families.
Now, THAT'S a surprise!


Some call the consequences associated with risky behaviors "Natural Consequences". In other words, as my Daddy would have said, "You shouldn't oughta done that. Serves you right."


Glenda T Goode said...

The development of the risk taking society we find ourselves in stems from the reduction of consequences, either apparent or supposed, in our society. The free love movement of the 60's stemmed from the availability of the pill and abortion. Sex became an outlet of personality as opposed to an emotional experience. People took risks because it defined who they were.

Moving into the more modern era we see the uptick of shootings and to a great extent, the growth of simulated violence gaming as well as the preponderance of movies that depict graphic violence has desensitized our youth to the idea of harming others. Those walls of moral fiber are being torn down for the sake of profit by the media companies. Having a moral message is no longer considered essential to legitimize any business decision.

As a parent, I did my very best to instill in my sons the virtue of doing the right thing. I had a lot of competition and they were under severe peer pressure to not conform to my way of thinking. In essence, our 'free of consequences society' driven by the lust for a dollar and the ability to ignore rules was directly challenging my authority and role as a parent.

Unfortunately, our children now send more time interacting with a media device than they do their parents. Sadly the parents are oftentimes doing the same thing.

SiGraybeard said...

What's that saying, "I'm not saying we should kill the stupid people, but how about we just remove all the warning labels and let things sort themselves out"?

I think there were studies in Rugby players that showed as they got better helmets the incidence of concussions went up.

It's not a simple thing to say we're going to design more safety into products. Just like trying to make things foolproof always finds bigger fools, it finds people willing to do more unsafe things.