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Don’t be afraid of the Dragon

Would you flip a coin each time you take a medicine, Heads - safe, Tails - unsafe?

I guess you wouldn't.

But ask the terminally ill person if they’re willing to give it a shot, and they might have a different answer.

Thankfully, most situations are not life or death, and most medicines are much safer than 50:50. The bar is set by the underlying condition- we would take higher risks for more dangerous medical situations, and vice versa.

We trust our doctors to know the risk profile of both the medicine and the disease. We trust the Regulatory authorities that approved this drug in the first place. We trust the quality of this drug, as it was manufactured to the strictest regulations in inspected facilities. We trust the Pharmacist who kept it well and gave us the right dose.

At least we should.

We are flooded with information, some of it true, some of it false, and our minds are notoriously limited in assessing risks and understanding statistics. We overestimate exotic risks for mundane ones, we prefer solid black-white statements for grey- “it’s complicated”- ones, and we tend to give our “gut feeling” the final say, even if that feeling originates from another risk altogether…

We all saw how contentious the situation was with regard to COVID. It is no wonder the WHO put vaccine hesitancy and noncommunicable disease at the top ten threats to global public health- it is the daily, mundane things that are the biggest threats to us, while we spend most of our time worrying about things that will literally- never happen.

Our inability to understand risk and to accept it exposes us to bigger risks.

It starts with our limited knowledge as individuals.

There are situations where it’s best if we trust the experts and the systems. This doesn’t mean that experts and systems know everything- the contrary. Real experts and advanced systems (like Science) are aware and transparent about their limitations.

I prefer the limited Expert then my own ignorance- simply because chances are better this way, even when it’s hard to accept it.

At the end of the day- Risk is never zero, and statistics are never intuitive.



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