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Dmytry comments on How to avoid dying in a car crash - Less Wrong

76 Post author: michaelcurzi 17 March 2012 07:44PM

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Comment author: Dmytry 19 March 2012 08:55:26AM *  11 points [-]

On a related note, stocking canned food [so that you can remain indoors] for the event of high mortality pandemic (e.g. flu) can easily be order of magnitude more effective than reducing your risk of traffic accident all way to zero.

A high mortality pandemic has probability of one in few hundred years historically, higher if you scale for the population size, higher still if you scale for the pig and poultry farms. The death rates can approach 10% or more.

The problem with the risks that are global, is that anyone who wears seatbelt is vindicated of the accusation of paranoya once every few minutes by a preventable traffic fatality, whereas anyone who stocks up food for pandemic, is vindicated once a hundred years. People tend to act on things to avoid being blamed for ineptitude rather than to preserve themselves.

This by the way goes for safety engineering of anything that's big and few, like nuclear power plants, and natural disasters, like tsunamis.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 19 March 2012 02:08:29PM 4 points [-]

The food doesn't have to be canned-- dry food also keeps well, and you'll presumably be storing water as well as food..

I've also seen an argument that it's a good thing to have a stash of food so that temporary problems with income aren't as dire.

Comment author: MartinB 19 March 2012 01:26:35PM 2 points [-]

Is there a systematic write-up of these ideas? We might start to put them in the wiki.

Stocking up food is also great to sit out short term problems with the local infrastructure. Like blackouts or massive snow.

Comment author: Dmytry 19 March 2012 01:41:02PM 4 points [-]

No idea about systematic write up, I posted some on that in general.

Much of risk of homicide, for example, may be in the small fraction of futures where the society collapsed, while only a small part is in the business as usual futures.

Comment author: satt 28 April 2012 05:53:43PM 1 point [-]

I did a back-of-the-envelope calculation and I'm not sure stocking canned food would have an easy 10:1 advantage over eliminating road accident death risk.

The OP linked to this US death table and said they were male & aged 15-24. That bracket had 7,476 road traffic accident deaths in a year out of 21.86 million people, i.e. 0.034%. By comparison, if the chance of a pandemic with 10% mortality breaking out next year is (say) 1%, that points to an estimated annual death rate of 0.1%. Even assuming that keeping canned food were enough to cut pandemic death risk to nil, that's only a 3:1 advantage in favour of it.

And then that number could go either way for people who'd use different probabilities. If someone thinks a pandemic only has a 0.1% chance of happening next year, or would only have 1% mortality, or that stockpiling food would only reduce pandemic death risk by 10%, that reverses the advantage to 3:1 in favour of eliminating traffic accident death risk.

That said, it did surprise me that the original raw number comes out at 3:1 in favour of stockpiling food. Before I did the calculation I guessed the ratio would be more even. And it goes up to 7:1 if I use the road accident death rate for everyone in the US (or indeed female Americans aged 15-24).

(Upvoted parent anyway, it's got a fair point. It'd be interesting to try a full-blown reference class forecast for pandemic risks, actually.)