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satt 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: 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.)