C-50. The risk in risk

What to do about risk? The worst thing – the risk in risk – is to approach it simply as an unanchored concept – i.e., as that category which comprises particular conditions rife with danger. (There are many more concepts also at risk in this regard. [C-22]) What, we typically ask, particular unwanted, perhaps unanticipated, outcome might follow from a given course of action – or of inaction?

Avoid risk as merely a category not just because we have not given attention to all those particular conditions that deserve attention – such as unsolved problems (O>: P most notably, but Sp, S-P and Ps too). But because we may then also treat each particular condition to which we do attend as if it were merely a situational problem (I: Psit), neglecting the behavioral problem (Pbeh) from which the risk may be greater though not so apparent.

With risk we encounter the ambiguity of the singular again: the confounding of the particular and the general (III, XI), the confusion of the categorical instance and risk per se. What are we to do about the confusion engendered and about risk per se? Anchor the concept, of course, for starters.

What are we talking about? Risk is very omnipresent: anywhere, anytime and for everybody. It is insistent, such as when risk arises with respect to which risk to give priority to. It is akin to collision, because if we are not avoiding or arranging a collision someone else is – and we may be involved. But not just this risk or that risk. As with the case of collision, which is also too readily grasped as this or that particular, risk per se has something to tell us. Its message speaks to generality that is not merely a category of particulars.

Risk per se is a sweeping TELL (C-8), a veritable psychoscope refracting the Nature of Things. But we have to be able to read it. The BPO bias (C-38, C-39), for example, so infects language with its emphasis re particulars that it contaminates the Nature of Things' message – becoming itself a serious kind of risk and problem (O: S-P, Ps).

Like collision per se, risk exposes the Nature of Things' general persisting conditions of partial order, consequentiality and discontinuity (III). In the vernacular, risk comes with the territory. Even if we elaborate particular risks – quite usefully, as by types of risk, this does not do justice to what risk per se implies. As in our being on a forward course badly in need of corrections (App. XII) because we are not acting in accord with the Nature of Things. (How foolish then to assume or assign responsibility for this or that risk, but disregarding the general implications of risk.)

That risk extends as far as the reach of the Nature of Things can be glimpsed in the extended family of concepts it calls up: apprehension, anxiety, fear, angst, shyness, avoidance, uncertainty, trepidation, neurosis, hesitancy, lack of confidence … indications of the omnipresence and force of the behavioral problem (I:Pbeh; C-41).

Once we ground risk in the Nature of Things, the latter's distinctive behavioral principles must be heard. (Risk control based primarily on actuarial principles alone [e.g., C-46: the "invisible hand"] adds to risk. What we know of the [often limited] order of things is helpful but not sufficient given the Nature of Things' partial order.) Behavioral necessity's requisites and imperatives, so critical to solving the behavioral problem, become relevant principles – especially because of the risk inherent in, and risks incurred by, neglecting them. However, if we consult them:

Take the control requisite (VI). Risk can be seen there to be concomitant with the relationship between control need (CN) and control capability (CC). The greater the distance between them, the riskier any effort is to close the gap. But the relationship might also be seen as a ratio, with CN bigger than CC. This could happen if CC is understood more as capacity than capability (XI). The relationship could also be interpreted simply – and perhaps naively – as a discrepancy (e.g., on the premise that needed control is "in God's hands").

Risk may be further increased for the distance relationship of CN-CC by how well the gap has been (can be!) estimated. The solution we need for a problem may require compositional change (II) and thus the question of "all that it takes" arises for both the process and product (CC and CN). As we have seen (C-29) the concept of "cause" has masked – indeed impeded (IV) – our development of needed compositional capability,

Un- and under-developed minding needs (VII: the behavioral requisite) introduce many potential pitfalls. Lack of questioning capability stands out here as risk-relevant. As an under-exercised minding capability, its dangers are well understood – even if its disregard for our incompletely instructed condition is not.

Do we know when to stop (VIII: Singularity requisite)? Do we know what all we could or should stop for? Risk aplenty there. And there is more risk when we use decision making as a behavioral metastrategy, given its impetus to start up and don't stop until you get what you want … once you have (perhaps foolishly) chosen between available alternatives (without further consideration of the problem and/or sought new solutions).

How much risk do we incur – have we incurred! – by carelessly equating knowing with learning, and evaluation with valuation? These are just two of the outcomes of not heeding the Evaluation imperative (IX). Under-development of development and research (D&R) methods is another (XII). We have learned too much of what we do not know very well, courtesy of some intellectual procedural tools (App. VII) that subvert a more complete and accurate knowledge (O:S-P, IV; App. XI; C-38, C-39). Do we understand the burden – and its inherent risk – of what we think we know (0: S-P and Ps)? Of the increased remoteness that this makes for solutions to unsolved problems?

History has a thrust forward of increased consequentiality (App. XI). We risk diminishing that thrust, of thwarting humanity's progress, by neglect of the Construction imperative (X). When we attend to bridging the CN-CC gap, how are we to productively proceed if we can not specify and execute the steps required, especially the construction's planning – from conception to effective operating system (App. IX, App. X; C-36, C-37) – without a better understanding of the generative capability needed from cognition and communication (App. III) to meet the "all that it takes" demand of compositional change (II; C-47, C-48) for our being more consequential? (There is considerable risk in characterizing [C-14] the before-after aspects of effected consequentiality with the concept of "cause" [C-29].)

Then there are the many risks associated with the Balance requisite (XI), beginning with lack of recognition for the relevant dynamic aspects. How are we to avoid the risk of an overemphasis if we don't even distinguish the two (or more) conditions? Do we imagine that we are increasing knowledge when we increase learning? (We are only increasing the spread of what is already "known.") As we press and then relax our attention to learning, then press anew and so on, do we see the risk of trauma from the oscillation? Even given established independence and interdependence for the many conditions needing dynamic consideration, estimation of relative emphasis may be difficult … with attendant risk. Without appropriate attention to dynamic principles, the danger of miscalculating the degree of risk arises when, for example, basic and elementary, want and need, learning and knowing, etc. are not appropriately distinguished.

Imbalance risks are many and serious. Consider, for example, the risk inherent in construing behavior simply as decision making – i.e., emphasizing ADOPT to the neglect of ADEPT, foregoing new solutions to a contentious choice among available alternatives.

Consider too the risk of our continuing to follow a course forward that is uncorrected for its discrepancies from an accord with the Nature of Things (App. XII). We are in grave danger from passing up on a limited window of opportunity. Humans in their more primitive behavioral beginnings beseeched gods to whom they attributed powers to solve their problems. At this stage of development, we have a chance to strengthen ourselves to solve many of our problems. But with the world's diminishing resources, including environmental quality, and growing population invoked powers can be expected to return – though this time in the form of weapon-empowered (national, ethnic, religious, cultural) communities. For how much longer does developed strength, especially in minding capabilities, have a chance?


How do we limit risk per se? By a better appreciation of functionality, from needed functionality (III) through the development of functional capability (Topics V-XI), including technologies of functional indicators (App. X) that make particular risks more apparent – and thereby perhaps ameliorated if not avoided. Our lack of adequate functional indicators may well be one of the most serious risks we run (e.g., the "bottom line" mentality as a drag on operating system improvement).

If hair shirts were T-shirts, and preparedness (C-52) more our motive than penance, we might do well to invest in a wardrobe drawer full of a reversible model (back-to-front and vice-versa) T-shirt with AT RISK! printed on one side and UNDER DEVELOPMENT! on the other. Along with an appropriate humanism symbol?

(c) 2012 R. F. Carter