William Leiss was Senior Scholar in Residence at Cornell University’s Society for the Humanities in the Fall Semester of 2012.
Please contact me about the possibility of a short-term appointment at your universities.
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Good Robot: A Short Story Good Robot [PDF Version] ©William Leiss 2014 At the end of our long hike, now sitting over a simple lunch on our mountaintop perch, we could observe clearly the nearest of the many human reservations spread … Continue reading
The deliberate acts of the co-pilot in the Germanwings airplane crash in the Alps, as well as the possibility of accidental pilot error in the Halifax airport crash a short time later, raises the question: Can we fly commercial freight and airline passengers without pilots on board? We know that today most of the flying is already done on autopilot, including takeoff, cruising, and landing: With a few more innovations, and with pilots manning installations at various points on the ground, placed next to the flight controllers who now monitor all flights in transit, we will no longer really need them to be in the cockpit.
The Joint Review Panel (JRDisposal of Low- and Intermediate-Level Nuclear Waste (LILNW) William Leiss (September 2014) The Joint Review Panel (JRP), a three-member panel appointed by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), has … Continue reading
Thinking about Terrorism Risk William Leiss Note: This piece was published in The Ottawa Citizen on 22 April 2013. Terrorism has a special salience for Canadians: The destruction of Air India Flight 182 in June 1985 by a bomb placed … Continue reading
I define risk as the chance of harm, and risk management as the attempt to anticipate and prevent or mitigate harms that may be avoidable. Risk estimation and assessment is the technical tool that can be used to predict both how likely a specific type of harm is to affect us, and how much harm might be done if it comes to pass. This predictive capacity allows us to take precautionary measures, in advance of the harm being inflicted, to lower the anticipated amount of damage, by spending some money in advance – provided we are wise enough. Risk management can, if used correctly, help us either to avoid some harms entirely or otherwise to minimize the damage they may do to us.
A lecture at the Risk@Humanities Conference, 26-27 October 2012 By William Leiss Senior Invited Fellow (Fall 2012) Society for the Humanities, Cornell University firstname.lastname@example.org Continue reading
William Leiss: RiskBlog 1 March 2012 Once More, Understanding Systemic Financial Risk Satyajit Das and Systemic Risk [PDF] Andrew Palmer’s recent essay on financial innovation in The Economist, “Playing with fire” [25.02.12: http://www.economist.com/node/21547999] has received a lot of attention. Read … Continue reading
Environmental Release of Genetically-Engineered Mosquitoes: The Latest Episode in Frankenstein-Type Scientific Adventures
The subtitle for this essay is merely descriptive – not at all intentionally provocative – and is meant to be taken literally. By “Frankenstein-type” I mean, not the scientific work itself, but rather the arrogant and thoughtless act of a scientist in releasing a novel entity into the environment without adequate notice or prior discussion with the public, whether accidentally (as in the case of Mary Shelley’s story) or deliberately. Should this practice continue, as I suspect it will, almost certainly there will eventually be a very bad ending – for science itself. Only remedial action by other scientists themselves can head it off, and so far such action is noteworthy by its absence. They will regret this omission.
“Complexity cloaks Catastrophe” William Leiss (17 January 2012) Complexity cloaks Catastrophe – PDF Good risk management is inherently simple; adding too many complexities increases the likelihood of overlooking the obvious. Leiss, “A Short Sermon on Risk Management” (http://leiss.ca/?page_id=467) The quoted phrase … Continue reading
“Nature is the biggest bioterrorist”: Scientists, the Risk of Bioterrorism, and the Freedom to Publish William Leiss (22 December 2011) [Nature is the biggest bioterrorist] – PDF The quoted sentence in the title is attributed to R. A. M. Fouchier, … Continue reading
Germany as Saviour or Demon: Political Risk in the Eurozone and the Burden of History [Germany as Saviour or Demon] – PDF William Leiss (9 December 2011) Introductory Note: These reflections were inspired by the insightful article published on … Continue reading
In a conversation with Laureano Ralon and Roman Onufrijchuk, I recall the great gift bestowed on me by the opportunity to study with great teachers, in particular the historian Herbert Gutman and the philosopher Herbert Marcuse. Questions about the eight … Continue reading
This past September we learned of The University of Calgary’s embarrassment over the discovery that oil industry funds had been moved through its research accounts to carry out non-research activities dealing with climate change issues. These funds were used to … Continue reading
Here are extracts from Chapter 3 of my book, The Doom Loop in the Financial Sector, and Other Black Holes of Risk (University of Ottawa Press, 2010), pp. 101-2: Thus, by the middle of 2010 six of the seven largest … Continue reading
The Online English Edition of Der Spiegel has a brilliant analysis of the European debt crisis that is not to be missed. Read “The Ticking Euro Bomb” (October 5-7, 2011): Act I: Part 1, Section 1: “How a good idea … Continue reading
In case you missed the important and perceptive article by Doug Saunders, in Saturday’s Globe and Mail (“Why the West quietly cheers Turkey’s Rise,” 17 September 2011, A16: http://tinyurl.com/3sucw5d), here is a short summary: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan … Continue reading
Summaries – and links back to the originals – on the reports on the oil spill. Gulf Oil Spill Reports copy
When will the senior political and financial leaders in European countries come to their senses? When will they concede that their current policies to contain the debt crisis are not working and cannot be made to work? How long are … Continue reading
Three papers on risks associated with the long-term storage of high-level radioactive waste in Canada, commissioned by the Nuclear Waste Management Organization: Go to http://www.nwmo.ca/conceptofrisk Paper #1: How should matters of risk and safety be discussed? The first paper addresses … Continue reading