“Professor Risk” at Cambridge University Says “One of the Biggest Risks is Being Too Cautious”

To eat bacon sand­wich­es? Or not to eat bacon sand­wich­es? That’s a ques­tion tack­led by David Spiegel­hal­ter, who holds the title, “Win­ton Pro­fes­sor for the Pub­lic Under­stand­ing of Risk” at Cam­bridge Uni­ver­si­ty. Some­times they just call him “Pro­fes­sor Risk” for short.

In his aca­d­e­m­ic work, Spiegel­hal­ter looks at risk and uncer­tain­ty every day, see­ing how they affect the lives of indi­vid­u­als and soci­ety. You’d fig­ure that this might make him more cau­tious than the rest of us. But that’s not how it turns out. After ana­lyz­ing all of the data, Spiegel­hal­ter comes to this con­clu­sion: some cal­cu­lat­ed risks are worth it. They have min­i­mal down­side and make life worth liv­ing. Or, looked at a lit­tle dif­fer­ent­ly, some­times “one of the biggest risks [in life] is being too cau­tious.”

You can stay cur­rent on Spiegel­hal­ter’s think­ing by fol­low­ing his blog Under­stand­ing Uncer­tain­ty.

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

J.K. Rowl­ing Tells Har­vard Grads Why Suc­cess Begins with Fail­ure

Paulo Coel­ho on The Fear of Fail­ure

Find Cours­es from Cam­bridge in our Col­lec­tion of Free Cours­es Online


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  • Kaniz Fatema says:

    Inter­est­ed ti get accred­it­ed to teach sci­ence sub­jects

  • Ann Hawkins says:

    Per­haps the pro­fes­sor could explain to his stu­dents that risk tak­ing should not extend to rid­ing a bicy­cle at night with no lights, while dressed in black. There are more Dar­win awards for Cam­bridge stu­dents than PhDs and unfor­tu­nate motorists are caught in their reck­less­ness.

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