The Nature of Risk

  • William W. Lowrance
Part of the General Motors Research Laboratories book series (RLSS)


“Risk” may be defined as a compound measure of the probability and magnitude of adverse effect. Important distinctions can be made among six major classes of hazard (infectious and degenerative diseases; natural catastrophes; failure of large technological systems; discrete, small-scale accidents; low-level, delayed-effect hazards; and sociopolitical disruptions). Decisions about risks meet with four kinds of limitations: of empirical analysis of “the facts”, of social value appraisal, of “risk management”, and of the assignment of rights and responsibilities.


Swine Influenza American Petroleum Institute Risk Decision Compound Measure Nuclear Energy Policy 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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  1. 1.
    P. Shabecoff, “Increase of carbon dioxide in air alarms scientists,” New York Times, June 9, 1979.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Nuclear Energy Policy Study Group (sponsored by the Ford Foundation and administered by the MITRE Corporation), Nuclear Power Issues and Choices, Ballinger Publishing Company, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1977, page 22.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    U.S. Food and Drug Administration, “Chemical compounds in food-producing animals. Criteria and procedures for evaluating assays for carcinogenic residues,” 44 Federal Register, 17070–17114, March 20, 1979.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    “American Petroleum Institute versus Occupational Safety and Health Administration,” U.S. Supreme Court docket number 78-1036.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Committee for a Study on Saccharin and Food Safety Policy, National A cademy of Sciences, Food Safety Policy: Scientific and Societal Considerations; this summary paragraph appears in the prefacing letter of transmittal to the U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, March 1, 1979.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • William W. Lowrance
    • 1
  1. 1.Stanford UniversityStanfordUSA

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