Michael Stevens, the word-slinging creative genius behind the VSauce Youtube channel, released a video titled “Risk.” on March 22, 2014. The opening scene’s camera is in a refrigerator so that the video begins as Stevens opens the refrigerator to ask viewers to think about when they will die. According to a statistical analysis conducted by Stevens using World Health Information combined with viewer information, he calculates that the mean of his viewers will meet their end at 8:42 a.m., November 28, 2059. Luckily, this leaves these individuals enough time to grab a Coop breakfast sandwich before their early appointment with destiny.
Stevens’s videos typically have a broad theme or question that permits a massive range of facts to direct discussion. For example, this video about risk considers interesting concepts that include micromorts, survivorship bias and a multitude of word puns layered into Steven’s engaging style of speaking. Referencing K.C. Cole’s, “The Universe and the Teacup,” Stevens suggests that humans primarily direct their fears to unrealistic sources of harms. Stevens cites an example by Cole that envisions a world where cigarettes are harmless, but one pack out of 18,750 contains a cigarette that will blow up along with the user’s head. The only thing different about this envisioned world and our world, besides maniacal cigarette companies, is the dramatic source of death that smokers meet in the example. Studies that Cole and Stevens rely on suggest that these numbers match the deaths attributed to smoking in our universe.
Another notable concept Stevensspeaks about is the availability heuristic. This term refers to the human tendency to think that things occurring more recently have a greater likelihood for reoccurring than they actually do. It is fascinating that a guiding mechanism of evolution, survival, has favored psychological errors in risk-deducing brain calculations. Other errors Stevenstalks about include our knack for both believing that worse things will happen, and that we will live longer than others. While it may be flawed to believe you are healthier than others, I think that such a belief can induce healthier living traits, like exercise.
Stevens’s video also explains the history behind the survivorship bias. During World War II, planes would return from war with damage to their wing, body and tail areas. Therefore, these areas would be reinforced with more armor. Abraham Wald, a brilliant mathematician, suggested to put armor on the parts of planes that were not hit. The planes returning from combat were the survivors and therefore did not need increased
armor on damaged areas. Wald inferred that the planes that did not return were hit in different areas than the surviving planes. By paying attention and remedying surviving plane traits, they were actually countferintuitively approaching the problem. Having an awareness of when our minds may lead us astray reminds us to look at problems from a range of angles. If you have a different opinion than your peer, you should share it, even at the risk of offending someone because your unique approach may include an overlooked factor. In unison with eerie music, Stevens informs viewers that Wald met his own demise in an airplane crash.
This video is a healthy reminder that risk is as omnipresentas any potentially existing God may be, just minus the speculation. Every day we get out of bed with the possibility that our existences may be extinguished as easily as one puts out a candle. Risk evaluating tools like the micromort, which calculates the amount of risk an activity adds to your life, seem like unrealistic tools to navigate the uncharted region that is your future. Stevens’s video gives a lot of information about how our human mind approaches risk but leaves it to the viewer to decide if they should do more to actively avoid risk in life.
VSauce has plenty of other perplexing videos to watch, so consider spending some of your precious procrastination time on this channel. A huge appeal of this VSauce is the passion Stevens brings to the material he presents. The alluring visuals and sometimes-creepy music enhance the viewing experience and provide comedic relief. It is no surprise that he has attracted over 7,000,000 subscribers, spoken at a Tedx conference and has even met with President Obama to discuss healthcare. He gets me enthused, and more importantly curious about this mesmerizing universe we are immersed in.
Check it out and holler at me if you know of any other nifty information on the web worth exploring.
Contact Jeremy Garson at [email protected]