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The overreaction paradox

October 18, 2020

My bike got stolen a while back. It happened because I got lazy carrying my bike up the stairs and left it in the much less secure basement. I thought that taking it up the stairs is not worth it. Nothing will happen. No one will steal a bike from my building since it hasn't happened to any of my neighbors.

That has reminded me of the Coronavirus preventions. Preventing the spread of Coronavirus by making masks mandatory. Closing down restaurants and bars is an unpopular political move. The effects of prevention are not visible. Since prevention, by definition, prevents something from happening, it's hard to appreciate it.

This fallacy has been bouncing in my head for a while now, but I couldn't find a proper term for it. Googling "unnecessary prevention" and similar terms yielded nothing useful. In the end, I found it inside my collection of notes. 1 This fallacy is known as the Overreaction Paradox. It happens when prevention seems unnecessary because the result of it is that nothing happens.

Once I became aware of it, I started noticing it. From not wearing a protective skin for the phone, to not locking a bike since it's only going to be unattended for 5 minutes.

There are no rewards for preventions, and you can't even be aware that it's necessary. But sometimes, it's the right thing to do.


  1. That has made me aware of how valuable my notes are getting. They are more valuable than Google at times. They contain all the interesting ideas I have encountered in the past year. So they are more useful when searching for abstract terms and concepts.

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