top of page

The Safety Myth

We see death and danger on the news, on TV, and on the internet every day.

However, we almost never see it in our lives.

And when we do, it's almost never what we were told.

This is the Safety Myth:

that we are regularly "unsafe" and "need more safety"

However, in physical, statistical, and scientifically accurate reality:

  1. We are almost never NOT safe. Ie. we're safe almost 100% of the time.

  2. When we ARE not safe, it's almost never what we've been told. It's something completely different.

  3. Yet, we still spend huge amounts of time, money, and energy trying to improve safety, against the things that almost never make us unsafe.

  4. While ignoring and completely misunderstanding safety probability and prevention.


For example:

Are sharks unsafe in any way?

Sure. Some sharks can bite you and kill you, and this actually happens sometimes.

Is wind unsafe in any way?

Sure. Some wind can be very strong and do things like destroy houses, and throw you through the air, and this actually happens sometimes.

Would sharks combined with wind be scary and MORE unsafe than sharks or wind alone?

Sure. It makes sense that if 2 unsafe things were combined, it would be MORE unsafe than just one of them.

Should we be afraid of Sharknados, and spend money, time, and resources trying to fight them?

No. Sharknados don't exist. Except in lots of terrible, terrible movies.

As stupid as this sounds, this is how we talk about serious safety topics:

  1. We take already generally safe things (sharks and wind)

  2. We take their most dangerous and rare forms (big scary sharks that almost never and accidentally bite people, and super high-damaging winds)

  3. We exaggerate those scary aspects to make them scarier and turn them into a scary story

  4. We make absolutely no attempt to calculate the probability of safety (which is still nearly 100%)

  5. We then use the scary stories to persuade people to do something you want, even if it has nothing to do with the scary topic (ex. lowering or raising taxes to fight sharknados)

  6. We also use them widely in entertainment (Sharknado 1-6... yes, there are 6). This makes it harder for people to tell the difference between factual reality and fictional ones.

These actually exist.

And while scary and unsafe things are absurdly rare in reality, we don't know that because:

  1. They are widely used in entertainment

  2. They are widely used in sales and marketing efforts, to manipulate you into doing things you otherwise wouldn't

  3. Math is hard, takes work, and most people can't be bothered to do either.


A real example: Cause of Death

You'd think, based everything you've seen and been told, that:

  • You are likely to be killed at some point in your life

  • When you are, it's likely to be some bad person doing it

However, from 1990 to 2017... worldwide... even in the worst parts of the world... 90-92% of people died from disease.

That means, everything else... war, murder, workplace accidents, car accidents, sports accidents, sharks, lightning, tornados, earthquakes... whatever... killed only only 8-10% of those who died.

This also means, that if you are trying to save lives, unless you work in healthcare... you're safety effort are focused on far less than 8-10% of the problem, since that's the sum total of all OTHER ways to die.

This is just deaths. But all others forms of harm fit a similar pattern. Where the majority of harm comes from disease (majority), your personal choices (like smoking or playing sports), and the rarest events are some other person trying to harm you.


We are wrong not only about WHAT we will die from, but also WHEN.

This is easy to find out.

In the US, your odds of dying are nearly zero your entire life. This means your "Life expectancy"... the amount of time you can expect to live... is high.

You can see that as "Death Probability" for Men and Women below:

Now, hat part of your life do you have a LESS THAN 0.1% chance of dying?

Well, in 2017:

All boys and men age 1-19

All girls and women age 1-33

It's not until age 20 and 34 respectively that that odds go above 0.1%. And again, that's mostly from disease.

How old do you have to be to reach a 1% chance of dying?

Well, in 2017 in the US:

All boys and men up until the age of 58

All girls and women up until the age of 65

So, it's not until age 59 and 66 respectively that you have a 1% chance of dying. And, that's still almost entirely because of some disease.

But, that's:

  • Not how we talk.

  • Or the stories we tell.

  • Or the investments we make.

Because, we mostly buy into the Safety Myth.


Anchor 1
bottom of page