We live in a world of risk. It waits for us in our refrigerator and surrounds us on the freeway. It's lurking in our arteries and sitting in our 401(k) accounts. Given that we deal with risk on a constant basis, we should be good at it; as it turns out, though, we're not. We're blind to common risks like heart disease (one in five deaths), but we shrink in fear from rare events like shark attacks (one in a million) and airplane crashes (one in twenty thousand). What accounts for our poor ability to perceive and react to the risks that really matter?
Starting from an evolutionary perspective, the author traces our distorted perception of risk back to our ancestors, reminding readers that we are all the culmination of a long line of survivors who fought life-and-death threats such as attacks from wild animals, starvation, and disease. The fact that we have covered Earth with seven billion people is a testament to our skill at overcoming these risks. But our spectacular success has also produced our contemporary artificial world with new threats like climate change, chili dogs, and online gambling. Our brains, which evolved to deal with the ancient world, are ill equipped to process the new threats we face.
Croston examines the many facets of our hazardous modern environment that we only dimly perceive. He explains why we let our guard down for a beautiful face, why slow-moving risks (like rising seas) are hard to stop, how a good story (though false) can be more persuasive than dry statistics (even alarming ones), what we fear even more than death, and many other intriguing quirks about our built-in incompetence to adequately handle present-day risks.
Offering a wealth of fascinating information about health, sex, money, safety, food, and the environment, this book illuminates an often-misunderstood but crucial aspect of daily life.
"A tour de force on the topic of why we take the chances we do and avoid the ones we don't. You'll never look at your life's risks the same way again."
- Aaron Klein, CEO of Riskalyze
"Beautifully researched and explained, The Real Story of Risk presents an understanding of why we do the things we do. Croston masterfully shows us why we choose short-term thinking over long-term, why we prefer willful ignorance over informed logic, and why we'd rather die than speak to a group of people. This fascinating book provides insight into our muddled human nature and answers how to overcome it and live more sustainably."
- Eric Corey Freed, Founding principal of organicARCHITECT and coauthor of Green$ense for the Home
"Risk taking is not to be idolized, nor should it be condemned. Risk in everyday life is like salt in our soup: the best amount is neither too much nor too little. That is what The Real Story of Risk shows in an entertaining and informative way with documented data and interesting anecdotes."
-Gerald J. S. Wilde, Author of Target Risk
"As Croston cleverly points out, although humans are well adapted, through our evolutionary history, to react to immediate risks, we are much less able to respond to slowly approaching, less obvious, future risks. We are able to anticipate and prepare for a possible tiger attack but unable to stop eating ourselves to a heart attack or to understand the dangers of massive world changes caused by global warming. Croston provides excellent advice as to how we might better respond to these future, long-term risks."
-Robert W. Sussman, Professor of anthropology at Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri