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Darwinian Insurance Distribution

“The fool will burn his hand twice on a hot pan handle, the stupid three times, and the imbecile changes hands.” – John R. Thornton

In today’s world of cars, health, lives, pets, and properties, it seems everything is or can be insured against one thing or another. Insurance can be defined as the equitable transfer of risk for a fee from one party to another. It can also, as defined by The Oxford Dictionary, be more simply put as “an arrangement by which a company or the state undertakes to provide a guarantee of compensation for specified loss, damage, illness, or death in return for payment of a specified premium”. Therefore, before someone or something can be insured, the risk of a problem arising has to be assessed.

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If one is to insure a car, for example, they first examine it to determine its stability by considering the vehicle’s age, engine capacity and driver’s experience; much like someone will examine the body of a person requesting health insurance. However, should the subject’s mental state be at the forefront of the insurer’s mind along with blood pressure and heart rate? In other words, should health insurance rates be higher for the stupid?

The latter question is probably somewhat offensive to those who are in fact stupid or know and care about someone who is. After all, if a combination of genetics and upbringing – nature and nurture – are to thank or blame for how someone turns out, then making idiocy expensive is surely a harsh and unjust punishment, especially as there seems to be more money with the intellectual (minus certain celebrities). However, punishing stupidity, which is the fault of the beholder (the degree to which is obviously debatable) is far more fair than punishing someone who, for example, has a family history of heart failure. If you don’t factor in and assess the risk of one, you can’t justify the consideration of the other, which would result in everyone ending up with the same insurance rate for everything.

According to Albert Einstein, the definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. We all do stupid things and experience things that we’re not necessarily proud of, but to repeat that action and be surprised by the repeated conclusion is what makes someone stupid. Some things should be learned from observing others, too. Having seen someone hit themselves in the face and being in pain, one should not repeat that action themselves. Then again, you shouldn’t need to see a slap to the face hurt to know that it will.

Educational videos such as this one attempt to put a humourous spin on safety to engage the public and then make them aware, rather than drone on at them like in so many public service announcements of old. In all honesty, people probably shouldn’t need additional motivation to not accidentally step in front of trains, but unfortunately that’s not the world we live in. Be safe out there, Australia.

Instead of mundane facts being at the forefront, maybe the Darwinian theory of “survival of the fittest” should be the top consideration. Someone in their twenties who takes good care of themselves and has a family history of deaths due to ageing is exactly who the insurance company is looking for thanks to the probability of the insurer having to pay out less than the individual claims from insurance. The sixty year old smoker who fondly remembers the days of Evel Knieval and loves imitation is fully deserving of the fatal sodomy from the motorcycle accident that their insurer foreshadowed.

Some readers have probably already heard of the ‘Darwin Awards’. For those who haven’t heard of them, Darwin Awards are awards given to those who die in incredibly stupid ways and should be rewarded for removing themselves from the gene pool and proving Charles Darwin’s theory – that the fittest of mind as well as body survive whilst those less developed will inevitably demise, and hopefully give the rest of us a few cheap laughs whilst doing it.

Award winners truly do demonstrate a lack of intellect and will to live. They include a twenty year old drunk man who decided a rattle snake was mocking him by sticking its tongue out, so retaliated by doing the same thing. Shortly afterwards, the rattle snake bit the man’s tongue, which swelled up so large that the man choked on it. The awards don’t just go to the inebriated, though. Hell, we’ve all done something stupid or regretful after a couple too many. Therefore, surely award winners such as the sober police officer who died in a car crash in 1993 when driving himself to hospital after re-enacting a previous shooting incident (by holding a gun he didn’t think would fire to himself and voluntarily pulling the trigger) deserves to gain more recognition.

And it’s not just the drunk and the uneducated that manage to win Darwin Awards either. In 1996 in Toronto, a lawyer intent on demonstrating the strength of his windows to law students ran into such a window, confident of its durability. His next move was to fall the twenty-four floors that had previously separated him from ground level, and subsequently die. According to the managing partner of the law firm, the deceased was one of their best and brightest. Oh dear.

In light of the above we feel fairly confident in stating that the levels of relative ‘stupidity’ displayed by an individual may have an actual correlation to that person’s longevity and mortality. But if we’re looking at stupidity as an aspect of risk management, then the obvious question here is: how should the insurance company approach this issue? You can’t simply ask the subject, or applicant, to rate their intellect and hope for an honest answer. IQ tests may not do much good, either, as there are plenty of people with high IQ’s (and even law degrees) who simply lack common sense. If you’re stupid enough to tell your insurance company about that night when you and some mates consumed 50 Jagerbombs and started a riot, then you’re probably too stupid to assume the requirement of insurance anyway.

Or decided that mocking the alligator was a clever thing to do

One method by which one’s intelligence can now be judged which, in years past was an unavailable resource, is the internet. Everyone’s on Facebook these days, and if your profile page is littered with examples of questionable and even moronic behavior, and is accessible to the public, then you’re almost asking for insurers to notice that you’re maybe more accident prone than your average John Smith whose page simply consists of a display of family photos and witty comments. If a simple Google search can prove you guilty of ignorance and stupidity, or at the very least, at high risk of them, your insurance rates should suffer as a result.

Youtube could be a good resource too. Fewer people are on it, with many choosing to instead upload their videos that prove that they’re fun but not too bright to their Facebook account. However, there are some that have for some bizarre reason, felt an uncontrollable need to jump off the top of the top of their house and proceed to show as many strangers as possible that they did so. The world is probably a better (and definitely a funnier) place thanks to these people, so you shouldn’t complain about the cyclist who, I think, failed to flip around a tree branch, or the man who managed to hit himself with his own car whilst attempting to leave a parking garage, but you also shouldn’t offer to pay their medical bills.

Or his...
Or his…

Who knows what else will happen with regards to someone using the internet to broadcast their sheer dim wittedness? Maybe some idiot has already tweeted about how it was their own fault that they slipped in that supermarket, and therefore relinquished the supermarket’s liability. Technology and in particular, social media, has the potential to cut down on scams and the idiots that sue places if their hot coffee is hot, as well as amuse the procrastinator. Both causes seem equally noble and worthwhile.

If you are going to take stupidity into account when insuring people, you should take into account the variations of stupidity and degrees to which each occur. A class A moron who combines their show-boating ways with elaborately idiotic stunts is at a higher risk of doing something that will end up going viral on a social media site, or as a victor in the arena that is the Darwin Awards, than someone whose idiocy or cockiness slides down the scale to a B or C. Of course, insurance companies would have to keep this ranking system or ‘idiot scale’ somewhat secret. No customer wants to be told that they are being considered ‘tier one stupid’.

Stupid acts should, like crimes, be forgiven but not necessarily forgotten over time. If a murderer is seen to be fit to rejoin society having spent twenty years away from it, it seems very harsh to refuse the responsible forty year old insurance for having gone wild on their twentieth birthday. I’m sure there’s some logician or statistician who’ll read this and enjoy creating graphs that demonstrate how they feel the stupidity of certain acts should diminish in importance over a certain period of time. There may even be such a graph below this paragraph. At this point in time, the article is just words. Very ‘Twilight Zone’, right? If you answer ‘yes’, consider yourself tier one.

Bias would be an unfortunate issue, so there would need to be rules to which all insurers in a company must adhere. By this, I mean that an insurance agent that smokes may find the habit less dangerous and idiotic than one who has never smoked because they had multiple members of family and friends die for that exact reason. Equally, an insurer might be the type to every now and then, have a few drinks and decide that that king cobra is in fact mocking them, though maybe not react in the same way. Also, plenty of people might decide a lion tamer lacks something up there, but if that’s the only way they know how to make money and it’s lion taming or unemployment, maybe lion taming for a living is a rational decision.

This will, inevitably, lead to the handbook all insurers must follow and the phone conversation to them that potentially makes them seem uncaring and unable to comprehend. However, rules like these would be a necessity, and the insurer on the phone is probably just as bored of your voice as you are of theirs.

If people can become less stupid over time, as one would hope they will, there has to be the confession that one has the ability and capacity to also go in the other direction and hence, become more stupid. Stupidity may be a pre-existing condition, but one that can be improved upon or worsened over time. It therefore makes sense if one’s ‘stupidity insurance’ rates can go up or down over time, based on the insureds actions. Perhaps this would lead to a monthly or quarterly review of the subject’s increase or decline in ability to function within society. Sure, insurance companies would end up treating people like Skinner treated rats, but this might lead to the long awaited end of reality TV and other such nonsense. Talk about the end justifying the means.

This approach is of course, a consequentialist or teleological one. I guess deontological stupidity insurance would consist of far less room for redemption, but also less room for additional punishment. This would mean a judgment of liability towards stupidity in an initial meeting and that would determine the rate. Whether this works for you depends on how good you are at making a first impression. How did your last interview go?

Based on that question, some out there might be thinking teleology is the way to go. Based on this article, some might be thinking (or at least hoping) that stupidity doesn’t end up becoming financially punishing as well as physically punishing as it is with those nominated for Darwins. The premise ‘Should the stupid pay for their stupidity?’ is a hard one to have an answer to, because they often do pay by the consequences of their actions involving a great deal of suffering. Going beyond that might influence a bit more thought going into aspects of their lives, but then who would we all laugh at on Youtube? It hasn’t happened yet, but I’m sure that eventually that video of the man hitting himself with his car will become stale and dull, and at that point, I’ll hope something else equally idiotic pops up as its replacement.

Plenty of factors should be considered by anyone enquiring about whether they should take on the risk of something occurring or not occurring. Lefties tend to die earlier too thanks to the use of right-handed products, but because I am one, this should not be a factor in any way when applying for insurance. Got to love hypocrisy.

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