No theory forbids me to say "Ah!" or "Ugh!", but it forbids me the bogus theorization of my "Ah!" and "Ugh!" - the value judgments. - Theodor Julius Geiger (1960)

The Future for Risk Research

Dealing with the Complexity of Risk: Past, Present, and Future

In our ever-changing world, individuals construct their own reality through daily interactions, in which thoughts about past experiences and future possibilities are involved. While predicting the future solely based on the past is impossible, we harness present information to shape our visions of what's to come.

Risk as a Tool for Understanding and Managing the Future

Risk, as an integral part of decision-making, helps us make the future more understandable and manageable. It's a tool that empowers us to control and minimize uncertainty. Insurance practices, for instance, transform risk from a threat into an opportunity, allowing us to safeguard against potential dangers.

Using Risk-Based Calculations for Enhanced Safety

In our daily lives, we all hold perspectives about the future, with risk-based calculations serving as a structured approach to reducing unexpected surprises. The aim is to enhance safety and minimize the likelihood of perilous surprises.

Risk Navigation Throughout History

This concept isn't new. Throughout history, societies have navigated future uncertainties, developing strategies to cope with risks. Modern society may be complex, but it faces similar tensions between comprehensive security and the efficiency of anticipating common eventualities.

Mathematical Methods and Human Judgment in Predicting the Future

Since the 17th century, mathematical methods have been on the rise, making the future more predictable. This transition linked gambling, insurance, and decision-making to risk and probability. But no amount of calculation can entirely eliminate uncertainty—human judgment always plays a role.

Media, Public Awareness, and the Spotlight on Risk Analysis

In contemporary society, public awareness of various threats has surged, triggering calls for risk-related legislation. Media coverage has propelled risk analysis and management into the spotlight, influencing our expectations.

Risk as a Central Organizing Principle in Late Modern Society

Risk has emerged as a central organizing principle in late modern society, surpassing traditional variables like class and status. It's now a secular concern, and we increasingly rely on experts to manage the risks that threaten our security.

Complexities and Ironies in the World of Risk

There are ironies in the world of risk:

  • Despite the growing study of risk, there's no singular expert, and consensus on its definition remains elusive.
  • The foundations of risk are themselves disputed—different theories coexist.
  • A focus on technical aspects sometimes overshadows the ethical dimensions of risk management.
  • The distinction between risk as a choice and risk as a circumstance can lead to misconceptions about individuals' decision-making abilities.

Embracing Complexity: A Comprehensive Approach to Risk Analysis

We need to understand these complexities. We must broaden our scope and integrate risk analysis for a more comprehensive view. Technical methods are crucial but may not suffice for complex problems. Risk isn't just about numbers; it's about people, their choices, and the circumstances they face. We live in an uncertain world, in which risk is always evolving. Therfore, we need a more informed, adaptable approach to risk analysis and management.


Turner, B.A. (1994), The Future for Risk Research, in: Journal for Contingencies and Crisis Management, Vol. 2, No. 3, September 1994.