Mar 162010

I was working (actually, eating soup and planning my workday) at the British Library half an hour ago when the fire alarm went. We all packed up and left, quietly, orderly, in a very British fashion, milling around in the courtyard.

I tweeted about it.

Here’s the funny thing
Potential Fire in a library? One of the world’s greatest? With three of the four courtyard exits closed tue to improvement works? Surely there should be some panic? Some worry?

Nope. Mostly eye-rolling, looks of disbelief, checking of watches to make sure it’s not just time for a drill.

Our modern life has made us feel incredibly safe. Usually.
I experienced much the same thing about ten years ago in Victoria station. This was before Sept 11th, but after London bombings had pretty much faded away. The IRA and ETA had gone fairly quiet. But still.

The odd thing, to me, is that act irrationally in these sorts of cases, where we may be in actual danger, but we personalise false dangers.

Most people are convinced that crime, and in particular, violent crime, is on the rise in Britain, but it’s been falling steadily.

The chances of an American being killed (or even endangered) by a terrorist attack are approximately the same as being eaten by a shark whilst simultaneously hit by lightning, but we still ran out of duct tape that one time.

The “best experts” provide a good image that they’re providing airport security, but fail to deliver improved security, again and again.

Why is this?
We seem to be rational in the face of danger– no fire, no smoke, no fear. But we’re irrational when facing the unknown. We rely on questionable expert opinion rather than analysing the problems ourselves and coming up with workable solutions, we give in to FUD, which, far from solving problems, creates hidden problems.

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