The Need for Discernment in Risk and Safety

If ever there was a time for critical thinking and discernment ( it is now. We are not just bombarded with the propaganda of AI but also endless dis-information and mythology ( offering salvation in every form possible. Thank goodness that some researchers like Madsbjerg (Sensemaking, What Makes Human Intelligence Essential in the Age of the Algorithm) and Keen (The Cult of the Amateur; #digitalvertigo, how todays online social revolution is dividing, diminishing and disorienting us).

At the foundation of critical thinking and discernment is the ability to deconstruct sources, apply simply interrogation using historiography skills, investigate ethos, power and social politics, research and apply a critical sense of ethics to narrative. Ricoeur called this the ‘hermeneutics of suspicion’.

One of the warped trajectories of the recent safety trend into positive psychology is its inability to deconstruct, investigate and interrogate anything that might be deemed negative. The key is balance, all this positivity stuff floating about safety also needs to be tempered with discernment, deconstruction and critical thinking ( ). This is also why understanding an ethic of risk is critical to not being ‘sucked in’ to so much ‘noise’ in Safety, that is actually a distraction from safety.

If these skills are not present, this leaves Safety open to all kinds of mythologies and delusions and, attraction to easy fixes, simplistic slogans/memes and naïve beliefs, all masking the quest to make money from safety suckers. Worse still, most of it doesn’t work. So much is promised yet also has no methodology or method, nor an ethic to explain what is hidden in what is being offered.

The trouble is, when it comes to risk and wicked problems, nothing is simple, objective or solvable. Any offer of a simple fix when it comes to risk, is simply a con job. Any language of salvation, ‘safety saves’ or zero-hero stuff is simply religious-cultic delusion.

This is why all the promises, projections and propaganda surrounding AI is a seductive delusion ( ).

In SPoR, we concentrate on skill development in: deconstruction, research, historiography skills, myth-busting, socio-political analysis and discernment.

To help you on you task of deconstruction we work with many tools, Figure 1. Critical Political Questions is one such example but SPoR has many more practical and helpful tools.

Figure 1. Critical Political Questions


So, in the interests of critical thinking why not get your teeth stuck into this one:

The AI Jesus ( Yep, you’ve got it. AI salvation in a son of god chat bot.

Of course, what this nonsense exposes is all computer algorithms and data are programmed, designed and constructed by someone, usually IT engineers. None of this stuff is without bias, prejudice or subjective motive.

Except when you get something this absurd it is easy to deconstruct, smell the myths and discern nonsense.

Unfortunately, the con jobs in safety are less easy to discern. However, the same BS meter needs to be applied and this is where understanding and articulating one’s own ethic of risk is critical. This is also why the common ethic in safety of blind compliance and deontological and behaviourist duty, doesn’t work.

If you do decide to deconstruct a safety delusion/myth (eg, zero or ‘safety is a choice you make’) be ready for the counter-critics who deem all criticism of safety as anti-safety. The opposite is the case. All of the blogs on this site and the criticism offered, is to bring a positive and improvement to safety. All the work of SPoR has the same objective – the improvement and practical development of safety including, positive methods to help better tackle risk.

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