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Max Barry wrote the novels Syrup, Jennifer Government, Company, Machine Man, and Lexicon. He also created the game NationStates and once found a sock full of pennies.

Blog

Sat 01
Aug
2009

Risk

What Max Reckons Here’s me talking about risk:

(Link: Max Barry On Risk, ABC Fora or via The Monthly.)

Actually, first that’s Julian Morrow, introducing me. I feel I should point this out because you don’t see me very often, and even to me, all thirty-something white guys with no hair look the same.

Australians with digital TV can catch this on ABC2: an extract (I think) this Sunday at 6pm, and the full thing on Thursday at 5:30pm.

This lecture was for Sydney PEN’s Voices, and delivered at the State Library in Sydney on July 15, 2009. It’s not the kind of thing I usually do. In fact, it’s probably the first time I’ve been asked to write something serious since I became a novelist. It was a cathartic experience: I’m deeply grateful to have had the opportunity to do it, and to the audience on the night for being so supportive.

Comments

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Machine Man subscriber Mike R (#4310)

Posted: 3585 days ago

Max:

That was really briliiant! You should do more stuff like this.

Being (I suppose) a rather risk averse person myself, you've really caused me to look at things from another angle.

Thanks, now get cracking.

Mike

Machine Man subscriber Adam (#24)

Location: Morristown, Indiana
Quote: "Why do I blog? Simple, because Max Barry blogs."
Posted: 3584 days ago

Should I risk writing a comment?


...yes.

-adam

Machine Man subscriber David (#1456)

Location: Sydney, Australia
Quote: "Why are the pretty ones always insane?"
Posted: 3584 days ago

Max, that was wonderful. Thank you.

Kylie (#4360)

Location: Armidale, Australia
Posted: 3584 days ago

Hi Max. Finally someone who has explained risk in an easy to understand way :). After doing judgement and decision making at university last year, I've become more aware of how risk affects us. I thought your summary was well done :)

Caleb Crotzer (#1461)

Location: California, USA
Quote: "Breathe!!"
Posted: 3584 days ago

Well done, Max.

Here in the U.S., it seems like many get their news more often from comedy shows such as "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report" than the much more serious, and perhaps more boring, formats. I must say that your presentation would work very well in this market. It had serious and relevant commentary presented in an entertaining light with just the right touch of comedy. Have you ever considered a gig as a correspondent?

Abgrund (#3357)

Location: Atlantis
Quote: ""Redeem your mind from the hockshops of authority." - Ayn Rand"
Posted: 3584 days ago

Excellent in several dimensions. Thank you.

Germán (#4300)

Location: Argentina
Quote: "My brain: it's my second favorite organ. Woody Allen (Yes, I couldn't come up with a quote of my own...)"
Posted: 3583 days ago

That was great. I now genuinely feel bad about myself, my recent life choices, and more. And I am really grateful for this. Thanks, you possibly helped me become a better person...or at least a not-so-crappy one. :) :D

Machine Man subscriber Endingpop (#1478)

Location: Michigan, USA
Posted: 3583 days ago

Max,

I enjoyed that essay immensely. Thanks for sharing, especially the things about your father.

-Marcus

Hobbie (#1359)

Location: Cornwall, England
Quote: "There was a little man in his hair!"
Posted: 3582 days ago

Curious timing, to come across this now. In fact, not just generally at this time of my life, but specifically tonight, immediately after writing about how meaningless my life has become, and how depressed I am, to the point of considering death objectively as maybe not such a bad thing.

I won't go into details, since that would be shameless self-pitying and guaranteed also to only elicit one kind of socially acceptable and fairly false and hollow reaction from whoever reads this, but things aren't that great for me right now, and haven't been for a long time, years in fact.

I have been influenced in my reactions to my circumstances by having seen first-hand the results of suicide when my own father took his own life when I was 16. I may not have procrastinated about things quite so long as I have, and slowly gotten into a deeper and deeper rut, if not for that experience. I am hesitant to inflict it again on my family, despite my issues and differences with them. I have figured out that my father probably saw more risk in being alive, as he was uncontrollably abusive towards me as a child because of anger management and mental health issues and my mother had threatened to leave him if he ever hit me again... the night he locked himself in his car with a hosepipe connected to the exhaust he had beaten me up in front of my mother over a fairly trivial disagreement regarding my college courses. I didn't know it at the time, but it seems fairly obvious now that he thought death was preferable to my mother carrying out her threat and leaving him on his own. After seeing the results of that, I see the risks differently, in that the risk of the effect of my taking my life, albeit for very different reasons, on my family is greater than the risk to myself of continuing with a worsening situation. So it has taken a very long time, and progressively worsening circumstances to start me considering it again.

I don't believe in anything as simplistic as fate or destiny, but having your talk be the first thing I click on after finishing writing the journal entry I wrote tonight is definitely a significant coincidence. I'm not so needy or naive as to ebulliently praise your words and declare that they have irrevocably changed my mind and possibly saved my life. You definitely shall not be getting any photos of ambulances from it either. But you have given me a lot to think about that I was unable to see or consider from the view afforded by the quagmire I'm currently embedded in, and from a perspective and experience I can relate to, based in logic and reason rather than purely emotional reactions, but still retaining humanity. Regardless of how things end up, that is very welcome, and useful. For presenting the possibility of other intellectual options, and vectors of reasoning at a time when I'm thinking about this, but precluded from being able to think about it objectively and thoroughly due to the nature of it, you have my heartfelt appreciation.

Machine Man subscriber M.I.Minter (#347)

Location: Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA
Quote: "When I read about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading."
Posted: 3582 days ago

Risk.
Risk is our business.
That's what the starship is all about.
That's why we're aboard her.
You may dissent without prejudice.


Daniel (#4366)

Posted: 3580 days ago

Watching the full essay on ABC2 as we speak (or, as I type). I was so impressed by the $10 game concept and your explanation of it that I was compelled to find this page and read more. For the record, I (was) an avid lottery-is-a-tax-against-bad-mathematicians believer.

I'm not an emotional person generally, but the story of you and your dad has touched me deeply.

I look forward to reading more.

Machine Man subscriber gStein (#585)

Location: 127.0.0.1
Quote: "That's not change! That's more of the same!"
Posted: 3576 days ago

what's a T-intersection? 3-way stop? or where you are turning from a small (neighborhood) road onto a main roadway?

Mats (#1057)

Location: Turku, Finland, Europe, Earth
Quote: ""The optimist thinks this is the best of all possible worlds, and the pessimist knows it." James Branch Cabell via Robert Oppenheimer"
Posted: 3576 days ago

@Hobbie

Here comes a socially acceptable and fairly false and hollow reaction: just hang in there, Hobbie.
Keep writing in that journal of yours, talk to your mom, a priest, your pets and plants, friends, family or the store clerk, whoever.
Somebody will listen to you and will want to help you.

We hear you, Hobbie, and we wish you well!

And finally, something to raise the mood:
"Life is like a box of chocolates - most of 'em are full of crap and those that were any good are allready gone"

Machine Man subscriber Russell (#3897)

Location: USA
Quote: "O Lord, Protect us from those to whom you speak directly"
Posted: 3569 days ago

i loved when you said the part about an athlete making the most of "her natural talents" XD

lawlblog reading :P

Machine Man subscriber Warpig (#4534)

Location: Texas
Quote: "The key to war is not to die for your country, its to make the other poor dumb bastard die for his."
Posted: 3464 days ago

Max, you are a quite gifted orator. I like you timing. Also, very very good essay on risk. I like your thoughts.

Machine Man subscriber Rebecca Giono (#4607)

Posted: 3456 days ago

That was wonderful, I enjoyed it immensely and look forward to future essays.

Roman Averson (#4654)

Location: Mississippi
Quote: "Don't Panic."
Posted: 3429 days ago

Seemingly redundant, I enjoyed your talk.

Risk is so often mistaken for "gain" or "loss", but under the microscope of potentials and the inherent value of action or inaction, there is so much more to be evaluated or ignored respectively.

I hope that this particular video reaches further than my college apartment here in the rural U.S.
It's full of insights and ideas that (holy sh**!) make people think! I know that it made me think, and I know that it would be the grounds for discussion all across campus if given the opportunity.

I saw a comment regarding you taking up a position that included an American market (barring your already published books), and I believe that they (Caleb Crotzer) was correct in that you would be well accepted. Americans have gotten to a point that we're pro-risk but refuse to accept those who fail without some reassurance that there's more to offer. You should come give us a piece of your mind... or just some good advice. Either way should get the job done.

In a time when so much is uncertain or some such baloney, I appreciate that you can shed a little light (or hope, as the case may be) on a failing system and some royal sized screw ups on the part of some "models", be they mathematical or role models.

Keep up the good work.

blab (#1632)

Location: The Sandwich Isles
Quote: "Adventure is just poor planning"
Posted: 3315 days ago

That was a profound, courageous and intensely human speech. Thank you for taking the risk to reveal a personal story. While you are a good writer your talent as a speaker is even more impressive.

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