Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Reduce Fear != increase security

This appeared in the October 2004 crypto-gram and is a very good description of how the current "security" measures at airports, etc. serve only to "reduce fear" and don't actually "increase security". The latter is the hard problem....

From: Anonymous
Subject: Fear and Security

This is in response to the letter you published last month by Wayne
Schroeder: Fear and security are closely coupled in simple situations, like riding a motorcycle. The way to reduce the fear is to increase your safety, such as by driving more slowly. Millions of years of evolution have evolved fear as a mechanism for keeping us alive, but millions of years of evolution never had to deal with a 767. It evolved for simpler things, like bad weather, high speeds, and scary animals.

When it comes to the more complex security situations of the modern
world, our natural instincts are inadequate. People still rely on them to guide them, though, like in the now-notorious Annie Jacobsen
freakout. That's why we have security theater; people are trying to
reduce fear, not increase safety, and they don't realize those aren't
the same anymore.

That is also why people are reluctant to confront their poor choices.
When you force them to do so, you are taking them from a place of
reduced fear to one of heightened fear; as far as they're concerned,
you're causing the fear. The rational perspective is clearly that you
are making them safer, but they don't see it that way.

The motorcycle example just doesn't work because it maps easily to our
evolved instincts. Modern security problems are so complicated that
the ways to reduce fear have diverged from the ways to increase safety. Trying to map these primitive emotions to modern threats can't work; the gap is too large. Relying on our fears to guide us won't make us safer; it will only make it more shocking when our defenses are breached again.

No comments:

Post a Comment