A few years ago I heard a really interesting podcast discussion with Stephen Flynn about the need to strengthen our infrastructure. I finally got around to getting his book, and was immediately rewarded with this great passage. From the introduction to The Edge of Disaster: Rebuilding a Resilient Nation,
Flynn wrote this back when George W Bush was still in office and troops were still dying in Iraq, but it is no less meaningful. It might be even more meaningful now, looking at the dual tragedies of the Boston Marathon and the Texas fertilizer explosion, or the destruction wrought by Hurricane Sandy.Coming to grips with perils that can lead to catastrophic consequences is not about living in a perpetual state of fear. We become fearful only when a sense of imminent danger is coupled with a feeling of powerlessness. But there is no reason to doubt our ability to confront and manage these risks. Every American generation has had to confront serious dangers, and they have always passed the test. While we must be prepared to acknowledge that there are dark clouds on the horizon, it is vital that we not lose sight of our most important and endearing trait: our sense of optimism about the future and our conviction that we can change it for the better.
We can quantize information of all types as never before. With that data we can project risk. It isn't something to be afraid of, nor is it something to ignore. I think incorporating knowledge of risk, and deciding what warrants action and what does not, is a critical challenge for self government.