There’s something in common between the nuclear disaster currently occurring in Japan and the financial meltdown a few years back. Heh. There’s a correlation. And it’s the lack of understanding correlation.
The financial meltdown largely occurred because risky loans were packaged together under the assumption that defaults on individual loans would be uncorrelated. The stupidity of that is mind boggling. Sure, this is hindsight. But someone should have realized is ahead of time. And not just someone – many people should have. There’s really not much excuse here. (There’s such a lack of excuse that it feeds conspiracy theories. Still, I expect it really was just stupidity.)
The same issue occurred with the nuclear “site blackout” problems in Japan. It’s perhaps less obvious that people should have understood this one in advance. And actually, many people were worried about it. It was a known weakness in the plant designs. But they didn’t come up with the scenario that finally occurred. If they had, perhaps the plants would never have been built. Perhaps….
In any case, now I’m worried about how many other things in our society are so poorly understood. We can wrap math around problems, but if the people doing the math don’t understand the reality of those problems, they’re bound to make similar mistakes.