Anti-lock brakes make many motorists drive faster. Introducing helmets and face masks in football raised the risk of concussions. Financial regulators and central bankers played a role in creating conditions that led to the 2008 mortgage meltdown.
The illusion of safety can lead to reckless behavior. These fascinating insights are part of "Foolproof- Why Safety Can Be Dangerous and How Danger Makes Us Safe", the recently published book by Greg Ip, chief economics commentator at The Wall Street Journal.
"Life is about risk," Greg tells us in this episode of "How Do We Fix It?" When we believe the world is safe, it affects our behavior. "Many positive things happen from taking risks and we should not let the pendulum swing all the way to the other side - trying to eliminate all risks from our lives."
Our collective aim to make life safer comes into conflict with the equally strong desire to make things bigger and more complicated. It is in our nature to safeguard our world - and yet sometimes, more often than we realize, protections end up being the things that threaten our safety and well-being.
Accidents will always happen, says Greg. Among the solutions he calls for are safe spaces: allowing banks to fail without taking down the entire financial system and creating flood plains that all rivers and coastal waters to rise without creating havoc in nearby communities.
Greg argues for a balance between independence, risk and safety. Regulate too much and we reduce the opportunities for innovation and create a sense of potential
complacency. "Black swan" events are inevitable. Our systems of governance and rule-making should recognize that we cannot plan for every eventuality.