New Year Safety Trade-Offs and By-Products
Hassan Vally introduces us to the concept of ‘microlives’ (http://www.bmj.com/content/345/bmj.e8223) which attempts to measure the life value of directions taken in life. For example: every hour of TV on the couch adds up to 15 minutes off your life whereas a daily serve of vegetables adds a couple of hours expectancy to your life. Even if you lose weight a diet of Macdonalds can kill you , we also learn this from Michael Moore’s Super Size Me. Vally endeavours to measure directions in life in ‘microlives’: ‘Gains are associated with taking a statin daily (1 microlife), taking just one alcoholic drink a day (1 microlife), 20 minutes of moderate exercise daily (2 microlives), and a diet including fresh fruit and vegetables daily (4 microlives)’.
Whilst Vally’s preoccupation with measurement and choice turns life into maths, the idea of trade-offs and by-products from his work is instructive (https://cdn.theconversation.com/assets_for_articles/2017-12-22-microlife-table.pdf ). Except in real life we neither think like this nor make choices like this particularly from what we know about addictions and motivation (see Tory Higgins Beyond Pleasure and Pain). Life isn’t engaged as some STEM experiment in the laboratory of suffering. Where we go and what we do is much more mysterious and uncertain than that. As we look back over 2017 in Hindsight Bias we all see surprising movements and turns around blind corners that shaped a direction in life that had nothing to do with choice.
The message from Vally is that all of life regardless of direction caries a value of harm. There is no living life without harm even standing in the sun for 15 minutes or sitting for too long in the shade can be measured in a value of harm. This is why the language of zero harm is such nonsense.
Research by Lim from Swinburne demonstrates that loneliness is one of the greatest risks to human well being (http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/sundayextra/2017-10-15/9034148 ) and results in the loss of microlives. In our crazy that in our connected world of social media we see increasing loneliness and isolation (https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/22/upshot/how-social-isolation-is-killing-us.html) which is so harmful.
There is no ‘risk free endeavor’ or ‘risk free zone’ in real living and language that speaks such nonsense simply isolates people from reality and alienates people from fallibility. Fallibility denial is the great dis-ease of Safety. We shouldn’t feel at ease when someone speaks fallibility denial to us. Does this mean I am fatalistic of course not the seduction of binary thinking would love to make it so whereas, the holding of multiple realities in tension brings an holistic approach to life and others. So, we don’t welcome harm whilst at the same time not speaking nonsense to people that zero harm make sense. The more our language and symbols are framed in the absolute the more we alienate ourselves from life and learning. The more Safety defines itself through iconography of objects, the easier it is to make hazards the centrality of safety.
The more we are surprised by fallibility the less we are able to tackle it. No-one seeks counsel from people who speak nonsense or frame life in absolutes. If we uphold a language of infallibility with others don’t be surprised that such language creates fragile non-resilient people (Taleb). We don’t need Safety telling us there is no harm. When pain and suffering visit us, these are the last people we want to see or hear from. Zero harm ideology is a disconnecting binary ideology that alienates people into the superior and the inferior, because ‘safety is a choice you make’.
Let’s propose to name nonsense ideology and nonsense language in safety in 2018. And let’s not claim that we don’t know (https://safetyrisk.net/sia-has-a-bet-each-way-on-zero/ ) that such language (https://safetyrisk.net/a-better-language-for-risk-and-safety/ ) and discourse is harmful. How many microlives does Safety ignore in the silly insane TRIFR counting process? How many Heinrich ratios can we fit on the head of a needle? How silly is it to count band-aids out of the first-aid cabinet and ignore the epidemic of loneliness at work?