[My Computational Complexity Web Log] Micromorts
Currently on airplanes children under two can ride free by sitting on a parent's lap. The FAA is considering whether to require such children to have their own seat in a child seat similar to the ones most states require for cars. Sounds reasonable? One argument against goes as follows: If we require parents to pay for a seat for a children there is a chance they will drive instead greatly increasing their risk.
How can we evaluate risk? Decision scientists have developed a measure called micromorts (μmorts). A μmort is a one-millionth chance of death. Sounds gruesome but by counting micromorts we can analyze the right choices to keep the most people alive.
All of three lap children have died in airplane crashes where their parents survived since 1987. The average driver runs the risk of about .02 μmorts/miles. If the average car trip is say 500 miles that translates to about 10 μmorts for each child in the car. Three laptop children have died in airplane crashes where the parent has survived since 1987. This translates to the equivalent of 300,000 car trips or about 15,000/year. About 6 million children ride on laps on airplanes each year, so if more than 0.25% of them were to ride in a car instead because of the higher prices, we would about cost lives by requiring safety seats on planes. My numbers, drawn from various internet sources, don't tell the whole story but nevertheless we can and should do a full analysis before setting policy.
It would be nice to have a list of various activities and how many μmorts they use, say you feel like parachuting, you can get an idea of how dangerous it is compared to say riding a bicycle. But we don't get such lists and people have to use their own judgments and often make the wrong decisions. We can also give a cost amount to a μmort; how much is it worth to save lives?
By finding statistics online you can calculate the risks in your various activities. You need to use about 3 μmort/day on average to keep a 10% chance of accidental death in your life. Spend them wisely.
Posted by Lance to My Computational Complexity Web Log at 8/9/2004 10:51:59 AM