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THE FUTURE IS NOT A RISK CALCULATION.
By Dale Meredith in All Sorts
what do risk and security have to do with faith, hope and love?THE FUTURE IS NOT A RISK CALCULATION
Last week, I had the pleasure of sharing a choffee (chocolate and orange infused
coffee) with my daughter in Wellington. We were sitting in the loading bay of some old warehouse near Cuba Street, a minimalist conversion from functional concrete to hipster chic courtesy of white paint and exposed copper piping. Its origins were still articulated, most clearly by the massive ceiling pulley remaining intact, awaiting its next load.
We chatted about Space Club, the stars and the origins of the universe. We covered what all her friends were doing and progressed to her most recent work: The Future is Not a Machine, an essay looking backwards at key architectural movements over the past century and then projecting forwards.
This week the value of a person’s life has been on my mind: how much risk to our lives can we tolerate as a community, and when does that risk become unacceptable.
We use machines to calculate risk now, what can we learn from those machines?
The insurance industry uses lots of data to calculate risk to life and property: theft, flooding, accident, disease, death etc. Actuarial tables measure by age, gender, location and any number of attributes. Your insurance premium is based on your risk. If the risk is too high, you may not be insured.
You may have heard of Project AF8. Statistics show that about every 300 years, the Alpine Fault ruptures. It last ruptured in 1717 and the next severe earthquake is predicted to occur within the lifetime of most of us, or our children. While modelling of alpine earthquake scenarios show
that Dunedin is safer than many parts of the South Island, it is not immune from quake risk. Will the machines respond when the crisis occurs?
Another risk calculation is the Annual Individual Fatality Risk, a statistic that creates a common basis for comparing one type of risk (of death) with another across a wide range of activities. From that information, it is then possible to work out how much people are currently willing to pay to reduce that risk, and when they are willing to accept the risk. It also informs decisions about when to say ‘No, the risk is too great and we will not tolerate this’.
This week, we met as Dunedin Methodists to consider Our People, Our Heritage, a conversation about how we can capture and tell of ourselves and our faith experiences.
Not obviously a risk calculation. Yet the seed for records comes from an awareness that our lives are finite, and that transfer of knowledge and experience creates a richness for the next generation. Knowing who we each of us are and where we come from touches a deep need for connection and context, a source of wisdom and inspiration for those who seek.
We talked of South Dunedin and Broad Bay, people who are the church, glass windows and Busy Bees, interfaith connections, environmental projects, social activities, youth productions, music, art and craft works, explorers and explored. We shared photographs, records and trophies. There was mention of sermons, bulletins and meeting minutes.
What we found was a wealth of love and dedication by many people over many years, reflecting John Murray’s hymn, in Faith Forever Singing:
Whatever is true and honest and good,
Whatever has beauty and wisdom,
Whatever reveals the face of God
These we will live by and treasure
[based on Philippians 4:8]
Risk and security come back into the equation: we need permissions and protocols to collect and make personal information available. Our archives office in Christchurch will help traversing the risk of litigation if we mis-use information, or if others with less honorable intentions choose to abuse that which is made freely available.
We are proceeding carefully, to make sure that these risks are properly managed.
Reflecting on the past weeks, I was left wondering, how is it that young people can see so clearly that the past and future is about people. The ideas, inventions and civilisations come and go; the human dilemma remains.
The future is not a risk calculation. Beyond the daily risk of living, faith, hope and love endure.
How can we use these artefacts, the buildings, records and stories, to help us to understand ourselves and to go forward, revealing the face of God?