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 university.
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Category Archives: Articles
I want to describe the learning experience with Herbert Marcuse in a series of anecdotes and stories, to give you a sense of the private man as well as the public intellectual. Continue reading
Good Robot: A Short Story Good Robot [PDF Version] ©William Leiss 2014 At the end of our long hike, order now sitting over a simple lunch on our mountaintop perch, we could observe clearly the nearest of the many human reservations … 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.
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.
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, viagra the Risk of Bioterrorism, pills 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. … 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
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, physician 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 … Continue reading
Summaries – and links back to the originals – on the reports on the oil spill. Gulf Oil Spill Reports copy
Three papers on risks associated with the long-term storage of high-level radioactive waste in Canada, mind 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 … Continue reading
The following series of short essays was written in the period June – August 2011 and posted on my website: www.leiss.ca. Similar pieces will be added to the series on a regular basis. If you are interested in them you … Continue reading
W. Leiss, seek M. G. Tyshenko, ailment N. Cashman, medicine D. Krewski, L. Lemyre, C. Amaratunga, M. Al-Zoughool. “Managing Prion Disease Risks: A Canadian Perspective.” International Journal of Risk Assessment and Management, Vol. 14, no. 5 (2010), 381-436. Abstract: This … Continue reading
There has been a fair amount of frothing at the mouth by media commentators, drug including some academics, nurse about the latest trove of documents. Great quantities of damage have been alleged, although (unlike the information in the WikiLeaks documents) … Continue reading