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Risk Hardcover – 16 Feb 1995

4.6 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge (16 Feb. 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1857280679
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857280678
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 16.5 x 24.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,855,150 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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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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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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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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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.
Read more ›
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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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Format: Paperback
I am an economist, and found the nature and subject of this book fascinating. It really is an important and powerful work.
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This book is fantastic. It has changed my view on statistics and the evidence which is often given for one argument or another. This book made me appreciate that maybe everything is not as clear cut as it may first appear.
The book is slowly dating with the facts and figures used being from at the latest, the 90s. This said, the point and drive of the book is still just as valid as when it was written.
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