2330: Acceptable Risk
Title text: Good thing I'm not already prone to overthinking everyday decisions!
This comic shows Cueball and Ponytail, who are nervous to spend time in close proximity while the coronavirus is still widespread, and while lockdown procedures are still in effect across the world. Despite taking many precautions, such as wearing masks and maintaining physical separation, they still fear the effects of the virus, and attempt to weigh the value of actually seeing each other in-person versus potentially catching the virus. This is a dilemma faced by many, as the United States enters the fourth month since stay at home orders began. Cueball and Ponytail are particularly affected because they are known to overthink everyday decisions and interactions (in spite of their protestation to the contrary in the title text), as seen in e.g. 1445: Efficiency. Moreover, Cueball is bad at social interactions, virus or no virus, as pointed out in the last panel.
The comic title "Acceptable Risk" is formally used in risk assessments as a risk level that so low that it is comparable with other daily life risks. Typically, Acceptable Risk is defined as the probability of death being about one in a million. Cueball implicitly makes a risk assessment where he takes into account local virus prevalence and steps to reduce transmission risk coming to the conclusion that the risk to "hang out" is an acceptable risk. During the meeting however he becomes aware that for a good risk control strategy he also has to consider the trade-off between the benefits of taking the risk of "social interaction" over the benefits of completely avoiding the risk. Additionally, the numerous precautions that Cueball and Ponytail have taken to reduce risk (wearing masks, meeting in a featureless empty field with no other people, maintaining a safe distance) likely make the social interaction much less enjoyable, and thus perhaps not worth it at all. Cueball and Ponytail figure that it is extremely hard to measure the benefits of social interaction for them, and thus decide that for now complete avoidance is the better risk control strategy.
Their screaming actually increases the risk of the interaction; this is why Japan recently banned screaming on amusement park rides (you read that right), and why many jurisdictions are levying particular restrictions on singing even when gatherings are permitted.
- [All of the panels depict the same two characters seen from a long distance, making them difficult to recognize. However, they appear to be Cueball (on the left) and Ponytail (on the right). They are each wearing a mask.]
- [Cueball and Ponytail talk to each other, standing at a distance:]
- Cueball: Okay. Based on the local virus prevalence, our careful quarantines, and the steps we've taken to reduce transmission risk,
- Cueball: I think it's okay for us to hang out.
- Ponytail: I agree.
- [Three small panels, vertically on top of each other]
- [Cueball and Ponytail get closer to each other.]
- [Cueball and Ponytail get still closer.]
- [Cueball and Ponytail standing near each other:]
- Cueball: Hi.
- Ponytail: Hi.
- [A normal sized panel, with Cueball and Ponytail standing near each other. They are yelling, with their arms raised:]
- Cueball: Is this social interaction good enough that it's worth risking our lives and the lives of others?!
- Ponytail: I don't know!
- Cueball: AAAAA!
- Ponytail: AAAAAA!
- [Cueball and Ponytail stand much farther apart.]
- Cueball: Healthy socializing was hard enough before the pandemic.
- Ponytail: Let's just try again in 2021.
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