Ask A Genius 569 – Risk and Its Contents

In-Sight Publishing

August 6, 2020

[Beginning of recorded material]

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: You had some thoughts about risk. Can you set the context here?

Rick Rosner: Part of the risk in talking about coronavirus in the U.S., depending on your politics, the idea of what you consider acceptable risk is different. The basic structure of the debate is that Trump catastrophically fucked up the response and in the U.S. in early August, as we speak, has nearly 163,000 Covid dead.

Which is 8th in per capita deaths in the world, it is terrible for a country as developed as we are; it is the shittiest developed countries in the world or the countries unlucky enough to get hit early that have the highest per capita death rates.

Number 2 in deaths is, I think, Brazil, which has a dumbshit semi-dictator. Number 3 is India, which has bad government. Trump fucked up the response, so Republicans are trying to prop up Trump by arguing that what has happened with the U.S. with Covid is no big deal. That we would have had a lot of deaths from flu, giving a bunch of excuses.

South Korea with about 2/11ths of our population has 301 deaths so far. They got hit the same time we did. We have more than 5 times as many deaths and more than 85 times per capita deaths as South Korea. So, Republicans are in the business of saying, “It is no big deal. People have to die.” They are ignoring the tragedy of it and denying the risk of it.

They want America opened up. They present people who want masks all the time as babies. Liberals, Democrats, are saying, “This is an ongoing horror. We need to keep taking reasonable precautions. We don’t need to sacrifice more than another 100,000 more people to this.”

I mean, that frames what is happening with risk right now in America, but there are some longer term trends in America and the rest of the world.

Jacobsen: What does this say about human cognition and flaws just built in?

Rosner: It says humans are bad at evaluating certain types of risk. Humans are good at spotting immediate risk. Risk that’s tangible. Humans are good at crossing the street for the most part, at understanding traffic signals. We have two dogs. I don’t think either dog is smart enough to not run out into the street. I don’t think either is smart enough to know what would happen if they got hit by a car. Some dogs are smart enough, but these dogs are not.

Humans are smart enough and are smart about some types of risk. But when it comes to risks that take statistical analysis, we are bad at it. We are motivated by feelings of fear rather than the understanding risk probabilities. For instance, I will drive like an asshole, but I’m terrified of flying. Even though, I’m putting more risk on myself by my driving than I’m assuming by getting on a plane.

Even there, it is hardtop properly analyze because one way of analyzing risk that you hear a lot is “risk per mile” on a plane versus in a car. But the deal is, if you are going on a plane, you are going, at least, 300 miles. If you are going in a car, then you might be going half of a mile. So, it is not a fair comparison.

In general, people who watch certain types of TV, have different ideas about crime. Crime has been steadily declining in the U.S. for the past 30 years. But because the news industry has exploded and more news is available than it was 30 years ago, most people don’t know crime has gone down because crime is a staple of news and so people are always hearing about crime.

Somebody did a study. The more Hannity you watch, the more you will underestimate the risk of Covid and the less that you are going to wear a mask. There are plenty of reasons why we are bad at evaluating risk. One reason is that we are bad at math in general. That and also back to what we needed to know in our pre-history. We like salty, sweet, and fatty.

Because those things were great to find before we had civilization and food was scarce. We were motivated to kill stuff and eat it all up. It has been bad for us since McDonald’s is readily available. The same deal is, we didn’t need to know that much risk math in our prehistory.

People had an average lifespan on the savannah in the early 30s. Under a high likelihood that you’ll be dead young, life is cheaper. That is one of the overall frames of risk. How we approach risk now versus a hundred years ago, 100 years ago, the average lifespan in America was early 40s.

If you took out child mortality, it was higher. It was probably early 60s. But if you made it to 15 years old, the odds are you would live to an average of 62, 63. But now, if you make it, there’s less infant mortality; if you make it to 8 years old, you’re likely to make it into your 80s.

Right now, we don’t know how far you’ll make it, because that means you’re not going to be 80 by the end of the century. By then, biomedical technology will be dropping extra decades on people like it is nothing. The upshot is life is less cheap.

People shorter lives, shittier lives, and there were more sources of death short of old age 100 years ago than there are now. So, we, now, are less willing to throw our lives away unnecessarily. Unless, we listen to too much Fox News and have been brainwashed into thinking that certain kinds of risk are patriotic.

But that’s not an overall attitude. You can find different strains of risk tolerance. Probably among conservatives, the risk tolerance that would lead you to enlist in the military might be higher. On the other hand, there’s a strain of draft avoidance among Republican leaders, among all political leaders.

The last president to serve in the military, I think, was G.W. Bush. And he served in the National Guard, so he didn’t have to go and he ditched out on his service. He pulled strings to avoid any significant or super dangerous service. So, the last president to put his life on the line; Kennedy was in battle.

George H.W. Bush was a war hero. He was the last one. His term ended almost 28 years ago. So, anyway, we’re less risk tolerant. I think you could probably make a car. If you get in a wreck and your air bags go off, it is $200 to replace or reset all your airbags, which means, to me, a car without air bags.

It used to be every car. When I was growing up, zero cars had air bags. I think it wasn’t until the late ‘80s. You shouldn’t be able to get a car with air bags for $2,000 less than a car with air bags. There are no people up in arms that that choice has been taken away from consumers. Nobody is bitching that seat belts are mandatory.

Maybe, there are, because there are campaigns to make sure people buckle their seatbelts. But nobody is mad or there aren’t big campaigns to resist seatbelts. We are mostly okay with the shit that has happened that is a part of our lives that lowers our mortality and lowers our risk. That’s the entire point.

We embrace reductions in risk, especially if we, more or less, understand them. This will continue – our tolerance of risk – to shrink as we get more and more years of life. Life becomes more precious. Throughout Covid, there have been plenty of Republican politicians saying that there are plenty of old people ready to sacrifice themselves to save the American economy.

Everybody is like, “Fuck you! We’re not ready to sacrifice those people.” And old people are like, “Fuck you! We didn’t sign up for that.” People want to keep on living. There used to be this idea from Freud of the death wish that, at some point, people longed for death. Along with everything else for Freud, people don’t discuss that much anymore.

Sure, if you are in pain from disease, you might wish for relief. But somebody who is 85 years old doesn’t have a death wish that I’m aware of, the average 85 year old. Even though, their quality of life is much less than the quality of life of a 55 year old. That idea was, at least, part of common awareness in the first half of the 20th century and most of the second half.  

But when you compare the life of a 65 year old in 1910 to the life of a 65 year old now, certainly, the 65 year old now has much higher quality of life, probably a greater average health, maybe greater average fitness, though people in 1910 were skinny. 65 year olds now, probably ¾ of them are fat, but there are more things to do now. Entertainment is better.

Even if everything sucks as your age now, at 65, you can, at least, watch really good T.V. and movies compared to the person in 1910, who could only read. All these trends.

Anyway, the end, fucking – the end.

[End of recorded material]


Rick Rosner

American Television Writer


(Updated July 25, 2019)

*High range testing (HRT) should be taken with honest skepticism grounded in the limited empirical development of the field at present, even in spite of honest and sincere efforts. If a higher general intelligence score, then the greater the variability in, and margin of error in, the general intelligence scores because of the greater rarity in the population.*

According to some semi-reputable sources gathered in a listing hereRick G. Rosner may have among America’s, North America’s, and the world’s highest measured IQs at or above 190 (S.D. 15)/196 (S.D. 16) based on several high range test performances created by Christopher HardingJason BettsPaul Cooijmans, and Ronald Hoeflin. He earned 12 years of college credit in less than a year and graduated with the equivalent of 8 majors. He has received 8 Writers Guild Awards and Emmy nominations, and was titled 2013 North American Genius of the Year by The World Genius Directory with the main “Genius” listing here.

He has written for Remote ControlCrank YankersThe Man ShowThe EmmysThe Grammys, and Jimmy Kimmel Live!. He worked as a bouncer, a nude art model, a roller-skating waiter, and a stripper. In a television commercialDomino’s Pizza named him the “World’s Smartest Man.” The commercial was taken off the air after Subway sandwiches issued a cease-and-desist. He was named “Best Bouncer” in the Denver Area, Colorado, by Westwood Magazine.

Rosner spent much of the late Disco Era as an undercover high school student. In addition, he spent 25 years as a bar bouncer and American fake ID-catcher, and 25+ years as a stripper, and nearly 30 years as a writer for more than 2,500 hours of network television. Errol Morris featured Rosner in the interview series entitled First Person, where some of this history was covered by Morris. He came in second, or lost, on Jeopardy!, sued Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? over a flawed question and lost the lawsuit. He won one game and lost one game on Are You Smarter Than a Drunk Person? (He was drunk). Finally, he spent 37+ years working on a time-invariant variation of the Big Bang Theory.

Currently, Rosner sits tweeting in a bathrobe (winter) or a towel (summer). He lives in Los AngelesCalifornia with his wife, dog, and goldfish. He and his wife have a daughter. You can send him money or questions at LanceVersusRick@Gmail.Com, or a direct message via Twitter, or find him on LinkedIn, or see him on YouTube.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Founder, In-Sight Publishing


In-Sight Publishing

Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight Publishing and Editor-in-Chief of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal (ISSN 2369-6885). Jacobsen works for science and human rights, especially women’s and children’s rights. He considers the modern scientific and technological world the foundation for the provision of the basics of human life throughout the world and the advancement of human rights as the universal movement among peoples everywhere.


[1] Four format points for the session article:

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License and Copyright


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at and


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, Rick Rosner, and In-Sight Publishing 2012-2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen, Rick Rosner, and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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