[ExI] Consequentialist world improvement

spike spike66 at att.net
Sun Oct 7 17:32:01 UTC 2012

>... Behalf Of BillK
Subject: Re: [ExI] Consequentialist world improvement

On Sun, Oct 7, 2012 at 4:52 PM, spike wrote:
> >...Here is an interesting example of Anders' point on risk curves: the 
> risk of death from a nighttime house fire and falling off a chair 
> reaching for a smoke detector are both long tail risks, which makes 
> them inherently difficult to estimate and compare, leading to deadly

>...I don't think I believe this claim.   :)  ????  Pensioners are more at
risk of accidental fires...

OK, cool, we have counterclaims which can be theoretically tested, but only
if we have access to actual data regarding cause of death.  Read on please. 

>... Falling asleep while smoking...

EXCELLENT POINT sir, and do let me use that as a springboard into my
commentary on perceived risk and long term change in tail risks.  A
remarkable change that has happened in society in the past twenty years is
the dramatic reduction in smoking rates.  This filthy habit used to be very
common, but today I seldom see a person smoking, this being observed less
often than the moon quarters.  I have gone entire months not even seeing or
smelling a person smoking.  So the risk of a person smoking in bed has gone
down dramatically, all while the numbers of elderly have steadily increased.
(Hmmm, wonder if those two factors are somehow related?)

>... forgetting about the pan on the cooker...

Sure that happens, but these same new construction codes require stovetop
vent hoods that can handle most stovetop fires, all that are water based.
The kinds of fires that would defeat modern vent hoods are oil based, a form
of cooking which has lost popularity as its biggest fans tend to perish at a
younger age.  (Relationship there?)  Oil based cooking is relatively short,
higher temperature, and tends to make loud sizzly noises, so it is less
likely to be forgotten.  Water based stove top cooking make a loooot of
stinky but mostly harmless smoke before it actually ignites, if it ever
does, so good chance a smoke detector wouldn't be much help in those cases.
For the time being, let us ignore the fact that microwave ovens have
replaced a lot of stovetop cooking, especially in the geezer crowd.

>... smoking while using their oxygen inhaler :) , etc...

Granted, but it isn't clear to me how a smoke detector plays into that

>...They are mostly well aware that they can't stand on chairs...

On the contrary sir.  Read on please.

>... I would expect that a technician or the local Old Folks charity will
install the detector in the first place...

Ja, but the scenario is based on building codes and new construction.  Old
age is something that sneaks up on us nearly imperceptibly.  Most geezers,
when presented with this option, would say something to the effect of "Old
Folks charity indeed?  That is for old folks, and those in need of charity."

>... and arrange for the battery to be changed every year...

Billk, I would damn near risk my own life before calling someone to change
my smoke detector battery.  Especially would I do this if I didn't really
feel elderly, or if the smoke detector started chirping in the night with a
relatively young battery (that happens.)

>...There are so many charities looking after old folks these days...

In some places, ja.  The SF Bay Area isn't really a good place to retire in
a lot of ways.  It is expensive and faaaaast fast fast, with an accent on
expensive.  If you don't in some way take advantage of the special
advantages of this place, it is better to drift on outward, pocket the
profit from your house, live in a place which has more to offer for the
geezer crowd.  I seldom see what was a very common sight in my misspent
youth while riding motorcycles: a puffy blue-white Bouffant behind the wheel
at a stop sign, looking the other way.  That is so scary to a biker, for you
don't know if she has already looked your way, not seen you, is now looking
the other way and is preparing to pull out and kill you.

>... that I am sure if battery changing was causing accidents there would be
lots of warnings being circulated...

The reason I am circulating the warnings and often feel like the lonely
voice in the desert is that the real cause of the accident is not being
correctly addressed.  The geezer is brought into the hospital with the cause
of death listed as fall in the home.  The real cause is death by smoke
detector, but this is never listed as a cause of death.  So on and on it
goes.  Smoke detectors are not perceived as dangerous, nor are step ladders
or chairs, or cheapy WalMart batteries.  But with proper data analysis, we
could un-distort the actual risk matrix and start to retire real risk in
proportion to perceived risk.

Summary: smoking in bed death, scary but rare and becoming more so.

Falling off a chair, changing a smoke detector battery while old, drunk,
stoned or stupid: not scary, sounds silly, but not so rare and becoming more
not rare.

Proposed solution: somehow getting access to fire and rescue data, and
properly assigning risk to actual root causes.  Talk to any veteran fireman
and ask how their jobs have changed dramatically from the old days, thirty
years ago.  It used to be they put out house fires.  Now they have become
primarily expensive ambulance paramedic teams.

>... Stairs and steps are the risks for old folks...BillK

Ja!  Plenty of geezers don't have those, but do have smoke detectors, by
law.  We don't have a data infrastructure currently capable of properly
assigning the risk introduced by those things.  So those "fall" deaths and
injuries are perpetuated, as each of us ages and that risk actually


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