“Would you rather eat an earwax omelet or a pizza covered in a thick layer of a stranger’s dandruff?”
“Would you rather be squashed by an elephant, or fall off of the empire state building?”
My youngest son loves to play this game while we are waiting for our food at restaurants. It can be fun, gross, morbid, and a good way to pass the time. It can be a great way to help us understand how the people around us think and feel about certain issues, and it is also a good illustration of risk assessment.
It’s a game we are often playing without knowing it.
What is the risk that we are most trying to avoid? and what risks are we comfortable taking, particularly when choosing between 2 undesirable options.
Austin, Texas is about 1 hour away by car, and every time we want to go eat at one of our favorite restaurants, we have to make a decision. Would we rather risk life and limb to drive at 70 miles per hour on a busy highway so that we can get to Austin tonight and eat?
Would we like to walk?
Of course, that sounds ridiculous, because no one in their right mind these days would choose to walk 70 miles to avoid a car accident, but this is an extreme example of a risk-assessment decision that people make ALL THE TIME, forgetting that they’ve even made a decision.
This game is being played A LOT right now, behind the scenes. We would all benefit by considering how the questions themselves can skew the answer, both by how often they are asked and how they are worded.
Consider these dramatically different questions asking the same thing:
Would you rather wear a mask or get a deadly illness?
Would you rather wear a [potentially filthy] mask that could increase your risk of illness, or breathe fresh air, particularly outside, where your risk of contracting illness is essentially zero percent.
Consider what these questions are subtly suggesting you to choose:
Would you rather stay at home or die from an illness that is spreading in the community?
Would you rather close your business or allow sick people inside which will cause someone to die?
Would you rather die from an illness or get an injection to prevent it?
Would you rather get an injection or have your elderly parents or a neighbor die from a deadly illness?
All of these seem to be reasonable questions…and many are being asked every minute of every day on every media outlet….and they demand that people choose an answer.
Here’s a few more, hypothetically speaking, of course.
Would you rather…
…get and recover from an illness that almost never results in any bad thing, especially if the causes of illness are adequately addressed?
…get an illness that probably causes absolutely no symptoms at all in most people? especially if we address causes.
…get an illness that almost never results in hospitalization, death, or permanent disability? particularly if we treat the primary causes of disease.
Would you rather, hypothetically speaking, receive some new treatment…maybe…
…a medication that is a brand new technology that has never been tested on humans?
…a medication manufactured by a group of people who could make trillions of dollars because governments and private corporations will require that this medication be widely distributed?
…a medication made by companies that have intimate ties to those in government that mandate their medications be given to the masses?
…a medication that is manufactured by companies who will suffer exactly zero consequences if this medication is eventually associated with a risk of death or permanent disability, as many others have done in the past?
Remember, we are ALMOST ALWAYS playing a game of “would you rather…?”
I wonder what happens when the loudest voices are asking questions that dramatically skew our perception of risk, while not all of the reasonable questions seem to get asked?
Next time you are waiting for food at a restaurant, wondering whether you would rather eat a toe-cheese-taco or a pancake covered in syrup made from spin-class sweatsuit drippings…..remember to ask the right questions, and lots of them….so you can truly decide…
What would you rather do?