Discounting Future Risk

I was recently reminded of the movie Lord of War, when two prostitutes, Faith and Gloria, were sent to Nicolas Cage’s character by some warlord or another. Anyway, Cage is gently refusing the ladies’ advances when the topic of HIV comes up: Faith: [speaking softly] You worry too much. Gloria: [speaking softly] Why would you worry about something that can kill you in ten years where there are so many things that can kill you today? This second line is a brilliant example of how people think about risk. People will generally discount the future, sometimes by quite a bit.

The Structure of a Space Corps

There’s been a lot of breathless coverage of the surprise United States Space Corps being all of the sudden. Here’s a brief listing of links: Ars Technica Russia Today Space News The Independent Really, I could go on for a while, but you get the idea. But the most interesting of the pieces, was this one in the National Interest: Against An Air Force Space Corps: Space Belongs to the Navy! The Air Force is fighting legislation directing it to create a “Space Corps” to better specialize and prepare for conflicts in space. They are absolutely correct in doing so,

Nerd Nite Baltimore!

I’ll be speaking at Nerd Nite Baltimore 8 on April 18th. My talk, “The Needs of the Many and the Needs of the Few,” will explore ethics in Star Trek and how they apply in the real world: In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (WOK) and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (SFS), an ethical dilemma was posed. In WOK, Spock sacrificed his own life to save the ship and his shipmates, explaining to Kirk, that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. But in SFS, Kirk sacrifices his ship to save Spock,

A Mathematician, a Different Kind of Mathematician, and a Statistician

So I am in a meeting recently, and someone says he needs a mathematician. A second person points at me and says, “He’s not just a mathematician. He’s a mathematician, a different kind of mathematician, and a statistician.” Then I had to explain it. See, the phrase, on the top of this blog, on my Twitter bio, and many other places, is also on the top of my resume. And the second person had interviewed me. And he asked me about it. It’s not all that clever. I stole it from an episode of The Simpsons.1 In season 5, in

And Behind Door #3…

I am in Atlanta right now and tomorrow morning I am giving a talk on the SMBC cartoon, “An Ethical Trilemma”: Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal – An Ethical Trilemma No Description Despite the punchline, “So far, no ethicists are impressed with the Monty Hall Trolley Problem,” I am impressed with the problem. It represents a much more interesting problem than the comic gives it credit for. You can check out my slides here: This is an embedded Microsoft Office presentation, powered by Office Online. Also, as an aside, this is my first presentation since going to work for the Johns