Re: Pies in the face

From: Charlie Stross (
Date: Sat Feb 10 2001 - 09:45:31 MST

On Fri, Feb 09, 2001 at 03:33:51PM -0800, James Rogers wrote:
> At 10:51 PM 2/9/2001 +0000, Charlie Stross wrote:
> > This assumes that the person committing a criminal act
> >_intends_ to die in the process. I don't buy this; it's not a likely
> >situation. We can't attribute intentions to someone who's dead which are
> >at odds with their apparent actions, and if the actions look like a bank
> >robbery, then I see it as a bank robbery rather than a suicide attempt.
> You could frame this in the same way as any risky behavior: It is
> reasonable to expect in any activity that one has tacitly accepted the
> obvious risks involved. There is a reasonable expectation of possibly
> getting killed in a bank robbery, and by engaging in that activity, one has
> tacitly accepted the possibility of that outcome.

In theory, and from our standpoint, yes. In practice, I seem to remember
that there are a *lot* of psychology studies out there that show that most
human beings find it difficult to reason effectively about probabilities,
and particularly probabilities of negative outcomes. More people buy a
lottery ticket hoping to win than buy one expecting to lose, to put it
another way. I'd say that most people who rob banks do so because they
fail to effectively assess the risks attached to their actions. (Those who
adequately understand the risks simply don't do that.)

Therefore it's highly likely that a majority of bank robbers don't
understand that they can wind up dead as a result of their actions -- or
fail to generalise from other bank robbers' situations to their own. (Lots
and lots of criminals out there are sitting in prison complaining that
they're plenty smart, it's just that they had a bit of bad luck. Rather
than realising that they're _not_ smarter than the rest of society,
and they manufactured their own bad luck.)

> If a bank robber had the ability to dictate outcomes, he certainly wouldn't
> need to rob a bank for cash.

This is true ...

-- Charlie

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