Jason Dias: How Will You Die?

Written by Jason Dias

The Paris terrorist attack has a lot of us wondering how we will die. Existential psychologist/mathematician Jason Dias has the answer, and it’s disturbing. [commentary]

jason-dias-anewdomain-how will i die how will you dieaNewDomain — No, probably not. Almost certainly neither you nor I will die in a terror attack. 

How will you die? The same way I will die, probably.  

In the United States in 2013, the last year for which we have final data on the leading causes of death, there were 611,000 deaths from heart disease. 585k from cancer, 150k from respiratory distress, 130K from accidents, and 128k from strokes. Odds are good you and I will die in one of these ways.

There’s also suicide. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death, coming in at 41k deaths in the United States, and the majority of those involve firearms. If you want to kill yourself in a successful way, guns turn out to be pretty user-friendly. Just saying.

And then there’s the accidental death, also highly likely. In 2013, about 130,000 Americans died in accidents, which generally came from falls (30k), unintentional poisonings (38k) and car crashes (33k).

Gunshot wounds accounted for many deaths in 2013, largely suicide. But there were a lot of murders by gunshot(s), too.

how will you die how will i die terrorist attack shark attackYou might also get eaten by a shark, but I’m wagering you won’t be. In 2013, for example, just two people died as a direct result of shark attacks.

There were more American deaths from terrorist attacks than that in 2013. But not that much more.

In that one year, the last year we have stats for, 21 Americans died from terrorist attacks. By terrorists, I mean foreign insurgents blowing up or shooting people accounted for just 21 American lives that year.

We won’t get 2015 data until about 2017, because we’re moving at the speed of bureaucracy here. But 21 terrorist-related American deaths a year has been a pretty constant rate since about 2003, when the second Gulf War began.

So you might spend the next few weeks trying to extend your own life or those of the people you love by rethinking whether Syrian refugees should be allowed here or anywhere, but if you really want to lengthen your stay here you really would be far better off exercising four days a week for at least fifteen minutes a day.

timothy mcveighI don’t make these things up, you know.

By the way, as long as we’re talking stats and refugees, would you believe the U.S. has taken in well over two million refugees since 1975?

Statistically speaking, the number of those people who have turned out to be terrorists over the last 40 years is zero.

The vast majority of people who kill us Americans turn out to be Christians. If they aren’t when they pull the trigger, they often convert and/or get born again, as they say, in prison. It looks good for the parole boards, you see.

Those are the kinds of statistics that aren’t lost on anyone.

But let’s look at this a different way.

Two million people live in Paris, and more than 15 million people visit in a year. Let’s round up the number killed in their recent tragedy to 200. That means out of roughly three million people in Paris at any given moment, 200 were killed with bullets that day.

Now each is an individual tragedy, surely, but that’s a one in 15,000 chance of dying in a terrorist attack that day in Paris. Over the course of the entire year? Your odds of dying in Paris this year from that attack were … low. The same odds go for just about any city you calculate them for.

With the news and the stories we will tell and our natural horror of violence we will blow it out of all proportion, feel like suddenly the world is a lot less safe.

But really, your chances of being killed in a terror attack in Paris are somewhat less than your chances of falling off a ladder while cleaning your gutters and dying that way.

terror attack shark attack fall off a ladder ways to dieOr by slipping in the tub.

Or by having a stroke watching @Midnight when a particularly trenchant dick joke makes you choke on your hot dog.

It could happen.

Or you can look at it this way:

There are over 300 million Americans. One American died in these attacks, according to the data that’s come out so far.

It’s a real tragedy, of course. But statistically, one out of 300 million is much less than negligible.

Your odds of getting mauled and terminated by a shark is about double that rate.

Makes you think.

how will you die how will i dieMakes you think that, before we go off screaming revenge and bloody murder, we should maybe take a second to think things through for a change.

How many times have we gone haring off to bomb people, what has it cost us? What good has it ultimately done?

Maybe we should try something different this time. I don’t know, we could maybe convert all the B-52 bombers to carry crates of fruits and vegetables, and drop excess corn all over the Middle East. Let people see that American flag on crates of nutritious food and fresh water rather than on the side of bombs. Drop books and Apple iPods. Or iPads. Whatever.

Yeah, sounds crazy … but what good has your way done us so far? Perhaps it is time to think out of the box.

Well, anyway. We all die of the same thing, in the end. Our hearts stop beating and our brains stop braining. You can’t live forever or even for very much longer, really. You’re going to have a heart attack for one reason or another. Or get cancer.

Or your car will run into another car — or a truck. Or a tree. Or a cow.

The question isn’t how long you can cling to the surface of the world, is it? The question is what legacy you leave, and that has everything to do with how clean your hands will be when you go out.

Will you be goaded by lunatics into some rash aggression, or will you maybe go out and do something good today that actually could make a difference to you, your friends, your family and the people who will remember you?

That’s the real question.

For aNewDomain, I’m Jason Dias.

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