Statistically unlikely events

I don’t hide my contempt for the TSA, at least not particularly well. I’m not really all that impressed by their overall modus operandi, which is to fight the last battle instead of looking forward to the next one. Plus there is the issue of fighting against statistically unlikely events. The chances of something “bad” happening (and I’ll leave it up to you to decide what “bad” means) are generally very low. If you’re looking at a catastrophically “bad” event then the chances are minuscule.

Cory Doctorow writes a lot on civil liberties and similar topics. His column this week focuses on these extremely rare events and how society chooses to focus on them, since we feel we can actually prevent them. In reality, we aren’t preventing them – they were incredibly unlikely to happen anyways. But we can claim credit for preventing the next disaster thanks to our great efforts. The TSA likes to point out that there hasn’t been another hijacking of a plane since they took over screening. But they also haven’t actually stopped anyone from trying, and there is actually no evidence that airport screenings have even dissuaded anyone from planning an attempt. And yet here we are, putting up with ridiculous policies enforced in a haphazard and inconsistent manner, all in the name of preventing some event that almost certainly isn’t coming. It is a sad way to go through life, and one we need to break out of as a society.

Never miss another post: Sign up for email alerts and get only the content you want direct to your inbox.

Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.