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Risk [Paperback]

John Adams
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
Price: £31.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

16 Feb 1995
Risk compensation postulates that everyone has a "risk thermostat" and that safety measures that do not affect the setting of the thermostat will be circumvented by behaviour that re-establishes the level of risk with which people were originally comfortable. It explains why, for example, motorists drive faster after a bend in the road is straightened. Cultural theory explains risk-taking behaviour by the operation of cultural filters. It postulates that behaviour is governed by the probable costs and benefits of alternative courses of action which are perceived through filters formed from all the previous incidents and associations in the risk-taker's life.; "Risk" should be of interest to many readers throughout the social sciences and in the world of industry, business, engineering, finance and public administration, since it deals with a fundamental part of human behaviour that has enormous financial and economic implications.

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Risk + Culture of Fear Revisited: Risk-Taking and the Morality of Low Expectation + Risk Assessment in Social Care and Social Work: Theory and Practice (Research Highlights)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: UCL press; first edition edition (16 Feb 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1857280687
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857280685
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 1.3 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 188,249 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply a superb book. 2 Aug 2006
Format:Paperback
Society in general seeks to quantify risk. This book shows why most such exercises are completely futile because of the phenomenon of 'risk compensation'. In brief, make something safer and humans typically respond by taking more risks elsewhere to compensate.

I recommend this book unreservedly. Its one of the very few I have come across which has a supremely important point to make and makes it in a clear, well-argued and compact way, supported by lots of interesting data; a revelation. Buy it now, it is every bit as relevant now as it was when it was written.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars no statistical knowledge required 3 April 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book has been out for quite a while, and I have little to add to the previous reviews.
I would encourage you to read it, especially if you have no previous statistical training. There is very little math, and while some of the concepts are at first hard to grasp, Adams' style is always clear, never patronising and he rarely lapses into the professional jargon that disfigures more technical tomes.

If you've ever played backgammon, you'll understand Adams' notion of risk compensation. If you are unsurprised that young men in slow cars pay higher insurance premiums than older women in fast cars then you have already understood the concept of the risk thermostat.
These two concepts, plus a somewhat reductive typology of personalities, form the basis of the discussion, and show why most risk modelling is tripe.

The book was published over a decade ago. Since its appearance, there has been an explosion of research into risk, much of it funded by banks. Has any of this research yielded greater security for the banks that funded it? I wonder.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A "must-read" book 27 Jun 2004
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It's incredible how many well-meaning attempts to make society "safer" fail, foundering on society's apparent unwillingness to be safe. Adams not only tells us what's going wrong, but actually describes the ways in which risk taking behaviour can be understood and managed.

Of particular interest is the chapter on seat belt laws. Once you've read that, I guarantee you will be hooked.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book that must be read 16 Oct 2000
Format:Paperback
Anyone who can grasp the concepts discussed in this book should read it; it has universal relevance. Adams strips bare the very shaky assumptions upon which much risk assessment is based in the world. It was a shock to me, and I expect it will be a shock to most people. To use a cliche: This book changed my life. More accurately, it changed my world-view. If you need more convincing, take a look at the commendations on the back cover. Any book that can debunk so much of conventional doctrine on road safety, environmentalism, medicine, and so on, yet draw such acclaim from such a diverse range of specialist publications is a book to be reckoned with! As a final note, the book is really very small. However, it is brief and to-the-point; his two hundred pages are worth a thousand from most writers.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The argument for rational fatalism 16 May 2007
Format:Paperback
I've just finished reading "Risk" by John Adams and "Fooled by Randomness" by Nicholas Taleb. They make good companions. Both are illuminating and refreshingly entertaining. And both have the same main target: proponents of the view that risk is an objective phenomenon that can be measured and managed.

"Risk" Adams contends is a word that refers to a future that exists only in the imagination. It is inescapably subjective. Taleb, who is a New York trader, is especially [...] those who are fooled by randomness - deluded souls who believe that luck can be managed, that future prices can be divined by a study of past prices - and that such divinations will make them rich. The iconic case, with which Taleb has great sport, is the collapse of Long Term Capital Management. Two directors of LTCM, Merton and Scholes, received Nobel prizes for their development of the luck management methods that produced the collapse.

Adams, writing before the fall of LTCM, puts his finger on its cause. Merton and Scholes were not detached scientists observing something that could be objectively measured, they were players in the game, influencing, and being influenced by, all the other players.

Adams' most interesting, and sadly neglected, case study of the interactive nature of risk management is his demolition of the myth of the efficacy of seat belt legislation. Nowhere in the world, he shows, have seat belt laws saved lives. Everywhere they have resulted in a transfer of the burden of risk from those best-protected in cars to the most vulnerable outside cars, pedestrians and cyclists.

Five stars to both Adams and Taleb!

PS Your previous reviewer, Leitch, is wrong on his two "fundamental" points.
1.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fresh Ideas for a society obsessed. 12 Feb 2009
Format:Paperback
I attended a lecture of John Adams recently which led to me reading the book. It is really brilliant. Our society is obsessed with risk as a negative aspect of live and forgets about the rewards which we take risks for. This book solves all that.

I'm a big fan.
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