Will talks about ‘lifeboat’ strategies. In other words, he speaks of planning for the worst scenarios. If minor problems occur, we’ll have the kinds of systems in place, and our worlds constructed the right way, so we can ride out storms. While some might see this as a morbid view of the future. But let me illustrate Will’s position with a story he once told me:
Imagine you’re a chap named Noah. God says to you one day to build an ark and save the animals from a flood. You look at what you’ll need to carry out this project: lots of wood, animal husbandry skills, boat building skills, a good food supply aboard the boat.
But what if the light and voice from the clouds was in your imagination? What if it doesn’t really happen? You go back to your economics training and do a cost/benefit analysis.
If there’s a flood and you build the ark: Survival
If there’s a flood and you don’t build the ark: Destruction
If there’s no flood and you build the ark: End up with a big boat, a pile of food, a boat-building business, a sawmill and sons who’ll probably end up becoming vets due to having to learn how to care for all the animals
If there’s no flood and you don’t build the ark: You go about life as normal before the light in the clouds spoke
Whether the flood happens or not, you’re ahead by building the boat. So being a rational person, as the economists would define you, you build the ark.
What Will illustrates in the story is that the measures we should take to minimise our exposure to damage, and our reliance on things beyond our control, are going to – even if the world around us doesn’t go pear-shaped – benefit us in the long-run. So is there a valid reason not to do them?