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Risk summary

Dan Gardner

The Science and Politics of Fear

4.2 (33 ratings)
20 mins

Brief summary

"Risk" by Dan Gardner explores how our brains perceive and react to risk, and how this can lead to faulty decision-making. Using real-world examples, Gardner shows how embracing rationality over emotion can help us make better choices and navigate an uncertain world.

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    Modern society is chock-full of false fears.

    We’re constantly being told that the world is under threat, whether it’s from terrorism, climate change or global epidemics. It seems we live in dangerous times. But do we?

    We currently live in a so-called risk society. Ulrich Beck coined the term in 1986 to describe societies in which there’s a high sensitivity to risk, whether it’s cancer or nuclear war. The United States and Europe are both good examples.

    Beck noticed that risk societies were spreading throughout the world, especially as people grew more afraid of technological advancements.

    As technology improved, our news outlets became filled with stories intended to scare us. In fact, a study conducted by Eurobarometer in 2006 found that 50 percent of Europeans believed their cell phones were a threat to their health. Meanwhile, stories of terrorism, cancer, obesity and gluten intolerance have taken over our media.

    Most of these frightening stories are exaggerated, however. Frequently people don’t even understand the things they’re afraid of, like cancer.

    In a 2007 Oxford study, researchers asked women at what age they thought they were most likely to develop breast cancer. Twenty percent said it was their fifties, and over half said that age wasn’t even a factor.

    Only 0.7 percent knew the real answer: breast cancer is most common among women over the age of 80. Age is the single greatest determinant of breast cancer, not cell phones or anything else.

    And the only thing that rivals many people’s fear of cancer is their fear of terrorism, despite the fact that, statistically speaking, it’s very unlikely that you’ll die in a terrorist attack. It would be much more logical to fear the flu: 36,000 Americans die every year due to flu-related complications.

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    What is Risk about?

    We live in a society that pushes us to fear what’s out there. Risk (2008) delves into the psychological and sociological reasons why fear is so deeply rooted in modern times, and why the world isn’t really as bad as we’re made to think it is.

    Risk Review

    Risk by Dan Gardner (2008) is a thought-provoking exploration of our perception and understanding of risk, making it a worthwhile read. Here's why this book stands out:

    • With its authoritative research and eye-opening case studies, this book challenges our assumptions about risks and provides a fresh perspective on decision-making.
    • By delving into the psychology behind our perception of risk, the book reveals how our biases and emotions can shape our choices, making it a fascinating and insightful read.
    • Through its engaging storytelling and accessible language, Risk keeps readers hooked, ensuring that the subject matter never becomes dull or monotonous.

    Best quote from Risk

    The heart has its reasons for which reason knows nothing of. – Blaise Pascal

    —Dan Gardner
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    Who should read Risk?

    • Students of psychology, sociology or politics
    • Anyone interested in the media

    About the Author

    Dan Gardner is a former senior policy advisor and writer for the Ottawa Citizen. He’s won numerous awards for his writing, including the Amnesty International Media Award.

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    Risk FAQs 

    What is the main message of Risk?

    The main message of Risk is that our perception of risk is often flawed, leading to irrational decision-making.

    How long does it take to read Risk?

    The reading time for Risk varies depending on the reader's speed. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Risk a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Risk is a compelling book worth reading. It sheds light on the psychology of risk and provides valuable insights for decision-making.

    Who is the author of Risk?

    Dan Gardner is the author of Risk.

    What to read after Risk?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Risk, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • The Failure of Risk Management by Douglas W. Hubbard
    • You Are What You Risk by Michele Wucker
    • Mastery by George Leonard
    • Super Human by Dave Asprey
    • The Laws of Human Nature by Robert Greene
    • Strategic Risk Management by Campbell R. Harvey
    • Good to Great by Jim Collins
    • Atomic Habits by James Clear
    • Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss and Tahl Raz
    • The Diary of a CEO by Steven Bartlett