Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login
The privilege of risk (edtechie.net)
106 points by fs111 8 days ago | hide | past | web | 80 comments | favorite





I remember talking to a friend, who was stressed about the risk in her next career move, and I said:

"Realistically, the worst case scenario is that you have to move back in with your parents for a while, and I'm pretty sure they'd be stoked to have you back."

And she just burst out laughing. Because it had never occurred to her that that is exactly the limit of how much it was possible for her to materially suffer.


Yeh I think this is exact point. Your friend didn't even understand the amount of privilege middle america has that they could move back home or have a parent pay for rent. My parent couldn't even afford a plane ticket back home little less moving back into a 3brd apartment that already has 5 people. If a poor person or immigrant fails you could easily become homeless. If a middle american fails you get 3 meals a day on a couch.

I feel like you're totally missing the point here. Not everyone can move back in with their parents for a while, I certainly can't. Despite earning an above average salary (nothing in comparison to bay area) in the UK, I still couldn't afford to just drop my job, and take a year to try and earn some money, I'd starve to death.

That is my point. You, on the other hand, are someone who has to deal with actual downside risk.

I re read your comment and it totally went over my head three or four times last night.

Exactly, that's why it is being referred to as "privilege" and not "something every person in the world has the option of doing".

I think you're both making the same point :)

We are, however I don't think the parent was clear enough! (given that I read the comment 4 times and missed what he was saying)

Risk becomes a vehicle by which privilege reinforces itself – only the privileged can take risks and only risk is rewarded. Which is not to say we should all be cautious and people or institutions should never venture to do unusual things.

I agree with what the author is trying to say here, but disagree with the second part of the first sentence. Everyone can take risks, and risk is not the only factor that determines reward.

Anyone can take risks, but me investing half my net worth into a company is fundamentally different than Elon Musk throwing half of his into a business venture. While we both would essentially be betting the same 50%, taking 50% from me might put me into financial hardship while Musk, though I'm sure he would be very upset about it, would not struggle to make ends meet.

Say both of our 50% bets paid off and we made a 5x return on investment, that would immediately put me into a higher tier of quality of life, while Musk is still just another billionaire. In this example I, the comparatively less privileged, have far more to gain than the more privileged Musk.

From a purely financial standpoint Musk seems to come out better in terms of risk to reward ratio, but there is more than just money at play in our internal risk evaluation strategies.


It seems like you're agreeing with what's being quoted: risk of any sort is, well, riskier (in many cases, impossible) for the unprivileged. Maybe I'm misreading you or the quoted part.

I was about to say the same, but on a second reading the language is really extreme:

> only the privileged can take risks

I guess that could be true if we take a position like "everyone is privileged to some degree", but that's not really what anyone means when they say "the privileged", and it would make the whole line meaningless anyway.


This is what I was disagreeing with. People are allowed to take risks who are not part of "the privileged", else we wouldn't have terms like "self-made millionaire".

It comes down to a multiplier effect. If you have no privilege, your multiplier is 0 or inconsequentially small as a risk multiplier for the amount of risk you can feasibly take.

If your lower end is someone who would be placed into financial hardship by losing 50% of their net worth and your higher end is Elon Musk, you use only the two most extreme examples to make your point. There are plenty of lower-tier rich (millionaires) who would stand to gain far more and lose far less (relatively speaking) than the average person by taking risks.

Also, I'm not really sure just what point you're trying to make. Much of what you say seems to corroborate the author's opinion.


" someone who would be placed into financial hardship by losing 50% of their net worth" would include most people in my estimation. Since privilege is relative, I used someone who is privileged relative to most people. The author claimed that "only the privileged can take risks", I demonstrated a situation where that isn't true.

Aside from that sentence, I mainly agreed with the author.


The lower end extreme on this scale isn't financial hardship for risking 50% of net wealth, it's someone who has no net wealth and little income. In America especially that person's risk profile typically includes "avoid getting a cold" and "start a business" barely registers as a thing.

I only found out I was underprivileged (grew up not so well off, no formal education, etc) when I started talking to the privileged.

Once I became successful, those same people said I wasn't underprivileged anymore, but was privileged (parents didn't divorce, white, male, etc).


You're thinking too big. Imagine failing, and what your choices would be. If you'd have a guaranteed home then you're ahead of some. I've known people in SV who lived in trailers who want to become entrepreneurs and can't really go home.

Risk becomes a vehicle by which privilege reinforces itself – only the privileged can take risks and only risk is rewarded.

This is patently untrue. My parents emigrated to the States in 1997 (from the post-Communist Romania) with two briefcases, two kids, and $2,000 -- hardly privileged. After their Visas expired, we technically had illegal immigrant status (after a few thousand dollars in lawyer fees and many years, we paid a fine and were eventually naturalized in 2008). We won the Visa lottery, yes, but I know of immigrants that did not and still found a way to citizenship. My parents now own a $1M house in Southern California, one of my uncles (also emigrated to the US in the 90s) owns his own business. He doesn't even have a college degree. It wasn't easy getting here (we recently celebrated 20 years of America): my college-educated parents had to work menial jobs like washing Target toilets, cleaning houses, and flooring and construction.

The gain for myself and my sister, our cousins, and some day hopefully my kids -- is immeasurable. The risk, even moreso. I know of Romanians that swam the Danube (pre-1989) and were shot at and imprisoned. The risk of freedom was worth it. Everyone can take risks. Investing $10,000 and 6 months of your life in a startup is not ruin-inducing. And perpetrating this kind of argument is, imo, doing a disservice to people that are on the fence.

Obviously, I don't have the same kind of opportunities as a rich trust-fund kid from Manhattan. But I'll be damned if I don't try. I recently quit my cozy six-figure job in ad-tech to try and bring some of my ideas to fruition. Will I fail? The odds are stacked against me -- I've failed before and failing sucks. The purpose of life is not wallowing in self-pity, but rising above the adversity. I leave you with this quite by Nassim Taleb[1]:

Risk takers can be socially unpredictable people. Freedom is always associated with risk taking, whether it led to it or came from it. You take risks, you feel part of history. And risk takers take risks because it is in their nature to be wild animals.

[1] https://medium.com/incerto/how-to-legally-own-another-person...


>Obviously, I don't have the same kind of opportunities as a rich trust-fund kid from Manhattan. But I'll be damned if I don't try. I recently quit my cozy six-figure job in ad-tech to try and bring some of my ideas to fruition. Will I fail? The odds are stacked against me -- I've failed before and failing sucks. The purpose of life is not wallowing in self-pity, but rising above the adversity. I leave you with this quite by Nassim Taleb[1]:

...

But your parents have $1M house, and you have a six figure job. Are you not the definition of a rich trust-fund kid? (To be fair, I don't know your age) I don't understand? To me it seems that you perfectly personify this section of the article:

>The research that concludes that entrepreneurs don’t have a propensity for risk, they just have wealthy parents backs this up. It is less of a risk to start a company if you can be supported while doing so, and have fall back options.

And this one:

>A senior manager once told me they loved risk, and I remember thinking, ‘but you aren’t affected by it’. They’d go on to a well paid job elsewhere, and not only would they be untouched by any failure of their risk but it would likely boost their status. They become a person willing to take risk, which has increased currency. This is not the case for someone who may be made unemployed in their late 50s with little chance of re-employment as a result of the change they sought to introduce.


> But your parents have $1M house, and you have a six figure job. Are you not the definition of a rich trust-fund kid? (To be fair, I don't know your age)

No. And here's why: I grew up dirt poor. I never was able to attend computer club chess club, or what have you. My parents, when I was in high school, were constantly working (often under the table and at odd hours). They could also never afford to give me any money for school. Attending college was also a nightmare. We moved across the US after my dad lost his job on the East Coast (I was 19, after my freshman year at GSU), so I had to start working as I couldn't afford out-of-state tuition. I finally finished school when I was 27 (I'm 31 now). At UCLA, I had a full academic scholarship and graduated with an almost-perfect GPA. I was able to pay for housing with the money I had saved up from FAFSA while attending community college.

I earned my salary and I resent anyone that would argue otherwise. I've contributed to Google Go, have two technical books under my belt (one as editor, the other as co-author), and dozens of open source projects. I've started a handful of startups and have taken my fair share of risk.

Finally, my parents got their house in 2011 (at one of the lowest points after the housing crash) and it was kind of a fluke. They never expected such a nice house at such a low price point (around 700k at that time), but hey, God is good. My post was mainly about my parents and the risks they took, but I've had to suffer many of the consequences of those risks and I still criticize my parents for some of their decisions. But c'est la vie, I'm making do.


My...700,000 for a house will you look at these poor people?

I'm a child of immigrants as well but I won't pretend that my parents did anything more than live up to the expectations bred into them during to their social class. Class Privilege is a good thing, one that we should be so lucky to give our children.


Seems clear enough: dvt's parents were poor when dvt was a child but eventually earned wealth. dvt certainly wasn't claiming their parents are poor now, so your snark about the house is based on a misunderstanding.

You missed the part when he explained his parents came to america with 2k and 2 kids. This guy wasn't born with a silver spoon.

The GP's point was that without taking that risk their family would not be there. The opportunities he has now are the result of the risk his family took while they were underprivileged.

The GP is not a "the definition of a rich trust-fund kid", he is the definition of a self-made American.

Arguing that no one can overcome adversity with hard work is just as irresponsible as saying that everyone can overcome adversity with hard work.


> But your parents have $1M house, and you have a six figure job. Are you not the definition of a rich trust-fund kid?

His parents have the million dollar house today. Theirs isn't a story of privilege.


> His parents have the million dollar house today. Theirs isn't a story of privilege.

Yes but his (having parent with million dollar house) is ...


Fruits of hard work are not a privilege, if his parents wouls get the home for free it would be, but they earned it. Assuming that wealth = privilege shows only the bitterness of the person making such an assumption.

For the guy it is worse than privilege. It is pure luck he was born into a good family and not say alcoholics in a ghetto. And that they managed to exploit the limited upwards mobility they had. I wouldn't call it a privilege. Privileges are earned or given.

Three role of multiple draws of the luck is underrated. Generic lottery, family lottery, location lottery, avoidance of terrible things in life. You can have way better chance in a society where inequality is low and/ or social mobility upwards is high.

The privilege part is him earning the spot in a prestigious school.


If his parents wouls get the home for free it would be, but they earned it.

The parents earned it, he didn't. He inherited those opportunity from the choice of his parent.

> Fruits of hard work are not a privilege.

Hard work and privilege are completely orthogonal. His parent where hard working, but also had the opportuinity to emigrate somewhere where they could safety reap the reward of said hard work

> Assuming that wealth = privilege

Wealth is a form of privilege, especially inherited wealth.

> shows only the bitterness of the person making such an assumption.

Sure... Let's do personal attack instead of staying on the topic


Having a $1M house doesn't make one a millionaire; it might come with an $800,000 mortgage, and the net would be $200,000.

> Having a $1M house doesn't make one a millionaire; it might come with an $800,000 mortgage,

Sure, but being able to swing a $800k mortgage is almost the same thing. You'd need an income of roughly $200k/yr, which would put you well above the top 10% of incomes nationwide.


The quoted rule would have been better stated in terms of frequency, like: Risk becomes a vehicle by which privilege reinforces itself – for the most part, only the privileged can take risks, and for the most part, only risk is rewarded.

There is substantial evidence in support of this thesis, from decades of research in economic mobility. Your story of success is only a single data point in answering this question.


> The quoted rule would have been better stated in terms of frequency, like: Risk becomes a vehicle by which privilege reinforces itself – for the most part, only the privileged can take risks, and for the most part, only risk is rewarded.

To think the author's statement was intended to apply to every single person past or present is ridiculous. I'd prefer we continue using language the way rational people do, and just chalk refutations like this one up to pedantry.

Obviously the author was talking about the general case. The parent commenter's refutation cites one edge case, and on that basis declares the author's statements are untrue.

This is a huge time-waster in (almost) every public argument on (nearly) every subject and I wish people (not all people, only those who engage in this pedantry) would stop doing it. To qualify the relative scale of (almost) every single claim or assertion would make (many) articles unreadable (in my opinion) and speech so labored that (many) people would probably prefer to just not engage at all.


> Your story of success is only a single data point in answering this question.

You are, of course, right. My story is meant to inspire and serve as counterbalance to the fatalist viewpoint in the original post.


Inspiration is one thing, but counterbalance is another. The whole point is that the research indicates your experience is decidedly an outlier: it doesn't counterbalance anything.

For every one of you (or me, for that matter: I was born into a family in which few had graduated high school and grew up frequently going hungry in a single parent home and am now a well paid physics PhD holding data scientist and engineer) there are dozens (or more) of people who grew up in similar conditions and never made more of it.


Is it fatalism, or a call to change the system that exists? People are not saying "no one other than the rich should try". People are saying "our system should be restructured such that the avenues to success are more evenly distributed".

Indeed. I came from a neighborhood of dirt and chicken coops. Now I am a post-doc conducting state of the art research in cognitive neuroscience. While the money hasn't come, I suppose I have my own sort of story of upward mobility.

> Investing $10,000 and 6 months of your life in a startup is not ruin-inducing

Can I just point out that it's not ruin inducing if you have a 100+k job and parents who live in a 1mm+ dollar house.

Losing 10k and quitting my job for 6 months in the process would be pretty much ruin inducing for me right now. I don't have the option to go back and live with my parents for a while, and of course, it depends on your definition of ruin, but that would likely leave mein the situation of sleeping on some friends couches with not a penny to my name and living on £58/week from the government.

> I recently quit my cozy six-figure job in ad-tech to try and bring some of my ideas to fruition

While you may not have the opportunities of a manhattan trust fund kid, you do have an incredible advantage over lots of other people; your job after paying 4k/month in rent in SF, and after paying taxes was more than my gross pay. Not everyone earns 6 figures and can save up 10k to gamble on a venture, and to assume that everyone can is incredibly entitled.


> Not everyone earns 6 figures and can save up 10k to gamble on a venture, and to assume that everyone can is incredibly entitled.

Maybe you can point out where I made that assumption.

My post wasn't even about my risks, but rather my parents'. Obviously risk should be mitigated. My point was this: hey look at these underprivileged people that barely spoke English and had no rights that came over to the US with two kids and no money. In two decades and with a lot of hard work, pain, setback, prayer, and tears, they built a life for themselves.

Their kids were deeply affected and are also trying to push boundaries in their own way. For my dad, the risk was was moving to the US. For me, the risk is starting my own company. What is your risk? As they say: you can't win unless you play.


> Maybe you can point out where I made that assumption.

You didn't make it directly, but

> Everyone can take risks. Investing $10,000 and 6 months of your life in a startup is not ruin-inducing

Implies to me that you believe that everyone can invest a large sum of money and a not-insignificant amount of time into an incredibly risky venture.

> My post wasn't even about my risks, but rather my parents'. My only point about your parents were that they are a safety net. Other than that, I have no beef with your parents risk (and applaud them for doing what they did so succesfully). Half your post is about your parents risks, the other half is how you think it's ok to gamble $10k, risk 6 months, and do so by quitting your cushy 6 figure salary job to do so.

Being in a position to do that is privilege.


> Being in a position to do that is privilege.

Breathing is privilege when compared to a corpse. If everything is privilege, then nothing is privilege.

Nuance is important. Taking 6 months off is not some kind of insane windfall akin to winning the lottery. All it takes is a year or two of careful planning and some basic conditions (no illness, no layoff, etc.) You make it seem like me taking some time off and investing in my own ideas (i.e. taking a calculated risk) is something only the privileged can do. That's a fatalist and imo wrong point of view.

Are you the type of person that thinks only the "smart kids" get 4.0 GPAs because they're somehow genetically gifted? It's mostly just a lot of hard work, annoying reading and homework, and not partying every night.


> Breathing is privilege when compared to a corpse. If everything is privilege, then nothing is privilege.

Oh come off it. Are you really comparing being in the top 10% of earners in the US to breathing?

> some basic conditions Such as earning enough after tax, rent and expenses to be able to afford to save up half a years living expenses in 2 years, and have a safety net to fall back on if it goes wrong. You’re missing two things here. 1) not everyone makes a six figure salary that enables them to save that kind of money in a short period of time. 2) not everyone has the safety net hat you have in the case that it fails.

If your venture fails and you’re out of work for a year, what will you do?

> are you the type of person that thinks only the “smart kids”...

No, stop trying to turn this around on me. I’m claiming your privilege is being a top earner with wealthy parents to fall back on. For the record, not everyone has what it takes to be a 4.0 GPA student, and if you think that “anyone can” just as long as they work hard, then you are wrong.

> it’s mostly Judy a lot of hard work, annoying reading and homework and not partying every night.

I don’t really know why you’re brjnfjng this up, but petting every night has very little to do with it compared to the other side of the equation - time. If you have time to do the hard work and the reading, do the extra curricular activities, that’s your privilege. You’re just as privileged as the people who choose to spend that time partying. Meanwhile in the real world, not everyone has the same circumstances, and you come across as incredibly patronising to assume that they do.


It's interesting. Every time the topic of privilege is brought up, usually the first thing someone who disagrees with the concept of privilege does is talk about themselves. Understanding privilege is not about talking about yourself. Privilege is about recognizing that there are people are who not you, and who did not have your story.

Well, I'm going to break the bad news to you... You were lucky. You're lucky you yourself aren't disabled. You're lucky you aren't black, or LGBT. You're lucky you had two parents, and both of them were healthy enough to work. Et cetera. Maybe you are privileged in some ways, but underprivileged in others.

Privilege is about recognizing that there are many others whose identities reduce their ability to take the same risks in a society that is not free of biases or oppression. Privilege is relative.

Privilege is not about disqualifying your experience or story. Privilege is about equity. And I'm not talking about shares or options. I'm talking about recognizing that others may need a bit of uplifting to get to the same place as you.

Your family was able to take risks, and profit from it. I hope you can stand in someone else's shoes who did not have the same fortune as you, and reflect so that yourself are not becoming a vehicle that reinforces privilege.


"Privilege" is about creating a race to the bottom pity party, whether the "discussion" is about rights being directly oppressed, economic power, or standing in one's communities. It's a sure-fire way to divide the plebs, which is a sure-fire way to sell sensationalist rags (among other goals).

We used to consider home ownership a universal idea to strive for. Ignoring the intrinsic negative practicalities of ownership, and ignoring the imperfection of traditional "everybody" not actually meaning everybody - it was still a constructive goal to work towards! Yet witness upthread, someone is getting shamed because their parents happen to own a house! Good luck getting that person to understand your cause - why should they bother empathizing at all when the inevitable outcome is to still be picked on for having the material and intellectual means to put a sheet of plastic over the top of one's cardboard box when it rains?

This article frames risk taking as a "privilege", rather than a core result of the technology called civilization. If you want to talk about perpetuated systemic inequality and oppression, I'm right there with you. If you want to talk about the downside from risks being externalized, I'm right there with you. But focusing on what luckier people have, especially as some form of original sin, is a zero sum game and a sure path to ruin.


You not only misunderstand what privilege is, but you also misunderstand what the article is about. First, let me quote @mindslight who makes a great point:

This article frames risk taking as a "privilege", rather than a core result of the technology called civilization. If you want to talk about perpetuated systemic inequality and oppression, I'm right there with you. If you want to talk about the downside from risks being externalized, I'm right there with you. But focusing on what luckier people have, especially as some form of original sin, is a zero sum game and a sure path to ruin.

As he says, the article frames risk taking as privilege. In fact, this is 100% absolutely provably not true. People of all socioeconomic strata take risks habitually. That was the point of my post.

Second of all, you misunderstand what privilege is. You say "Privilege is about recognizing that there are people are who not you, and who did not have your story." -- I submit that this makes no sense. Privilege is not recognizing that there are people who are not you (that's simply not being a sollipsist). Further, you're obviously not talking about Bill Gates' kids -- although they, like me, and like those born in the slums of Rio, have their own stories.

You're talking, from what I gather, about those with less than, say average, "original conditions" -- someone that's an orphan, a widow, a handicapped person, a disenfranchised person, and so on. Privilege is also not about equity, it's about charity. (which is by all accounts, a virtue). It's about helping those that are less well off. Equity is about egalitarianism, a discussion about privilege is decidedly not.

Finally, you make the oddly accusatory claim: "I hope you can stand in someone else's shoes who did not have the same fortune as you, and reflect so that yourself are not becoming a vehicle that reinforces privilege." I hope that all your passion about privilege yields a bit more than reflection. I'm a Christian and as you can imagine, prayer is quite important to me, and yet I still volunteer in LA's Skid Row and donate money whenever I can: because that is the fruit of this labor of privilege, not merely reflecting so you don't "become a vehicle that reinforces privilege" (whatever that means).


Right on.

The US was not settled by privileged people who could go back and live with their parents. Many came with absolutely nothing.

Having grown up poor myself, I find it strange to have people classify me as privileged. They see success and make up their own story about it. The ideas they've accepted are more important than the real world.


Serious question: is it "risk" when you have literally nothing to lose?

No, I guess a corpse has nothing left to lose.

Short of death, everyone has something to lose. Risk is the ratio of cost to benefit. And as long as the cost and benefits of some action are non-zero then there is a risk.


Didn't almost all of our founders come from privilege?

The settling of the country started many decades before the founding of the United States. The Pilgrims arrived in 1620, 156 years before independence was declared.

The pilgrims were a large and sufficiently well connected group to arrange funding for their mission. I think they'd support the author's point.

Your parents' story is very impressive, but I think it highlights some aspects of privilege I have also encountered:

- The people who are able to emigrate from a poor/devastated country are generally the educated and former middle class

- Airfare is expensive, and in real terms was more expensive in the past; two tickets across the Atlantic probably represent more than most humans will ever make in their lives

- Some people are being rounded up/denied the right to enter the country on their visas. Even having the chance to roll the dice on life in the US is a huge advantage

I could go on.

I think it's uncomfortable to think of ourselves as anything but eminently worthy/self-reliant but this doesn't hold up to close scrutiny. I say this as the child of immigrants who now are worth millions but used to work security, after arriving with $100 in their pockets.


You're right in the sense that we're all privileged in comparison to, say, rural Kenyans. But that's not what the original article was arguing. I feel that you're attacking a straw man here.

Money isn't the only form privilege takes. What about the privilege of genetics? And your folks sound pretty badass, so what about the privilege of a sound upbringing?

I also know immigrants who came to the US with little more than a suitcase and became millionaires. Non-wealthy people start businesses and succeed at them all the time.

You seems to be mixing a lot of perspective to arrive at your conclusion. Let's try to unpack them one by one :

> This is patently untrue. My parents emigrated to the States in 1997 (from the post-Communist Romania) with two briefcases, two kids, and $2,000 -- hardly privileged.

Compared to whom ? the average american in 1997 or the average Romanian in 1997 ? I am pretty sure compared to the average romanian your parent wouldnt call them selves under-privileged.

As an immigrant myself, i am not sure what definition of risk you are using to call immigrating from Romania to the US a risk. If anything, the ability to emigrate to a richer nation is an opportunity that literally millions of people are still, 20 years latter, dreaming of. So much so that the US as a green card "lottery"...

> my college-educated parents had to work menial jobs like washing Target toilets, cleaning houses, and flooring and construction.

Again, unless you are omitting some stuff , i am not seeing any risk taking behavior here.

I feel i need to say this, as someone who also had the luck (and yes luck, because parental investments is sadly a very under appreciated form of privilege) to be on the receiving hand of extreme parental investments, you parent were hard-working and dedicated, but from your own description, and my experience with other immigrants not risk taking.

> I recently quit my cozy six-figure job in ad-tech to try and bring some of my ideas to fruition.

And this is where i think you are proving the authors point. You waited to be financially secure before taking those risk. Had you been richer while young, you would have probably done so earlier; And more importantly had you not have a "couchy"job (and i am guessing some savings ?) would you have made the same decision ?

> Everyone can take risks.

Yes, but that's not the point of the article. The author is simply pointing that the costs of risky behavior is are not the same for everybody. under-privilege people have much worst outcome when they fail. And thus, the difference in risk taking/risk aversion behavior that we are observing might be a reflection of people rationally evaluating business venture within their own situation and coming up with different outcome.

> Investing $10,000 and 6 months of your life in a startup is not ruin-inducing.

It's because you are in a situation where this sentence is true, that you tried. But this is not true for everybody (like let say a single parent with an enfant child)

> The purpose of life is not wallowing in self-pity, but rising above the adversity.

Telling people about the cost of risky behavior is not self-pity it's pragmatism

And as a closing though, you seem to think that you are reaping the reward of you parent taking risk, my read of the situation is that you reaping the reward of hard consistent work. And to some extent i find this to be a much more pragmatic way of living one's life.


> As an immigrant myself, i am not sure what definition of risk you are using to call immigrating from Romania to the US a risk.

Leaving everything behind to move to a new culture when you barely speak any English and bringing your young family with you is not a risk? I vehemently reject this premise.


> Leaving everything behind to move to a new culture when you barely speak any English and bringing your young family with you is not a risk? I vehemently reject this premise.

When compared to poverty, oppressive regime and probably poor medical conditions ?


$1M house in Southern California isn't really saying much. Down here in San Diego: 3 bedroom, 2 baths, 1000 square feet homes going for $1M. The housing market doesn't reflect real wealth imo. Owning a house in Southern Cal is akin to playing hot potato

This is very true, I never claimed otherwise. It was always my dad's dream to own a nice house in Southern California. He got it.

Of course privilege affords you a cushion for many things, not only taking risks. That happens in any environment since "money" correlates to a safety net which could translate into the ability to take time to work on what you want. Some countries which have more supporting social systems also support more risk taking, because if the risk taking doesn't work out, the social system will support you to your next career change or re-education programs will let you shift to another field you are interested in. It is much easier in these countries to stop working in your current field and shift to another field. Since education is payed by the state. In the US the divide between the risk takers and the stable situation agents can't only be associated with wealthy support network(family). Since peoples values and levels of what comfort is can vary dramatically. So dvts example actually illustrates this quite strongly. People from a third world country have put up with different levels of poverty or non-access to comforts, so what they consider risks or comforts are different than what people in first world countries consider risks and comforts. The other thing is that people that live with more risks and are brought up in risky environments are more comfortable with taking risks. Success in an immigration story is dependent on many factors, hard work and a lot of luck.

This is the Matthew principle in action (a.k.a the power law or Pareto distribution). In this particular example, powerful positive feedback loops are at work.

This stuff is everywhere -- from tiny microscopic processes, to most skill-based human endeavors, all the way up to many grand cosmological dynamics.

Now, humans are not lifeless particles, and our awareness gives us the ability to tweak the systems in which we operate, to a certain degree. But we can't entirely eliminate the existence of power law distributions and positive feedback loops.

We instead must work to mitigate and dampen some of the less desirable effects. We should be able to safely reduce the extremities of some of these distributions, as well as shifting entire curves further along one axis, bringing increased benefits to all.

Note: the above comment includes some new conceptual articulations & evolutions for me. Thoughtful feedback/ responses are kindly appreciated.


> only the privileged can take risks and only risk is rewarded.

I strongly disagree with this. Anyone can take a risk. This is embodied best by the people crossing the Southern US border where they risk their lives and most if not all of their net worth before they even set foot on US soil. While my experience wasn't nearly as hard, I can relate since I was an illegal alien for years until college.

The difference between the privileged and everyone else is the cost of risk. They can afford to take risks with bigger rewards and they can afford to take risks more often. Consequently they are also more inclined to take risks.


Also how many are successful at the risk.

It it's like gambling or investment, if you're poor you can probably invest once, va banque. If you're rich, you can invest many times with smaller stakes and more likely not bust.


I've always puzzled at Jesus' parable of the talents:

> ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest.

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+25%3A14...

The condemnation of the final recipient of the investment is so incredibly unexpected and seemingly out of character. Not only did Jesus reward risk-taking but he condemned the absence thereof. I don't really know what to make of the lesson, but it certainly presents a different angle than what I would presume to be the "Christian" approach to life.


The most charitable interpretation I can think of (as an agnostic) is that the servant who took no risks with their investment is like a person who avoids chances to do good because they are afraid to "lose" under the existing system of Jewish religious rules.

An example of this is in the parable of the Good Samaritan, where ostensibly-virtuous people ignore the victim, because to intervene would make them ritually-unclean. Another case would be where Jesus seems unafraid to mingle with beggars and prostitutes, to the confusion and consternation of other religious figures at the time.

From a modern standpoint, we do not have many of those rules drilled into us, so the "risk of having a net increase in sin" simply isn't on our radar. For example, if someone is drowning we think nothing about which hand we use to pull that person from the water.


Digging the hole and hiding 80 lbs of silver (what a talent was) would have been more work than just depositing it with the bank. So his aversion to loss caused him to expend more effort for a worse outcome.

The world is somewhat a free to play game where people start in various stages of the game in terms of level, currency and powers.

The really high up players who enter at that level are playing a different type of game because they are exponentially more powerful and have more resources to take on bigger battles and losses aren't as impactful but victories are. Risk is low and game on!

Other players start out gold farming and have to be careful and strategic but they can get taken out by a random small event too costly for their level of resources and their world has ended. Risk was too high but way smaller than the risk for the high up player, game over.

Risk levels vary at all startups/companies really. The investor is taking a risk but that is one of ten deals, but has wealth to fall back on and probably owns the building. The executives are taking risks but have a golden parachute. The early employees are taking a risk but also pretty compensated, if they make it. The employees after are taking little risk but have the most to lose on someone else's risk and the least to gain. The risk should be rewarded as it can bring others wealth but the wealthy risk taker is a high up player in the "free to play" game with less to lose overall in the leaderboards.


>deification of risk

This is the crux of the problem, and the sooner we can get away from this, the better off we will be.

Risk is fine. Take it if it makes sense for you. But don't glorify it and don't worship it.


Why not? Courage (the motivator of risk) has been a virtue since the dawn of humanity.

Fortune favours the bold.

Agreed. I think Silicon Valley has an unhealthy culture of driving folks towards taking un-necessary risk. We glorify "hustling" non-stop, and overlook how destructive that advice can be to individuals

I have the same feeling when I hear politicians here in the UK say that they've had to make "tough decisions." Always the part being unsaid is "tough on who?"

Site looks like it's down, here's the archive link: https://web.archive.org/web/20171011011443/http://blog.edtec...

>Risk becomes a vehicle by which privilege reinforces itself – only the privileged can take risks and only risk is rewarded.

That is a pretty absurd leap to take. By its very own definition, there is no guaranteed pay-off yielded by risk-taking. And by risk-taking, I mean an individual going off the beaten, risk-minimal, path. In this economy, it is starting a company or joining an early one. So yes, of course, that "risk" is rewarded. But only some of the time for some of the people and that alone makes it insufficient to back the thesis that "Risk becomes a vehicle by which privilege reinforces itself".

If richer folks are able to go off that beaten path more easily or often, that is only because there "risk-taking" is less risky (amortized) for them than for anyone else. But again, that makes the reward neither guaranteed, systematic or easier to obtain.


We need people to take risks with their personal wealth. When the risk pays off, there is generally a benefit for the rest of society. When the venture fails, the rest of society is generally unaffected. When no-one takes risks, progress stagnates.

There's always going to be someone with a shit situation worse than yours. Using the better situations of others to justify your lack of risk taking is just lame. If you don't want to take risks, don't.

There's plenty of risk taking that didn't pay off.


Privilege is wealth. The idea that there are a number of privileges is a lie people who have wealth tell.

If you have money, you have privilege. If you don't, you don't. Everything else is but a symptom.


Fuck off with this priveledge bullshit.



Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | DMCA | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: