Technological Risk: Proceedings of a Symposium on Risk in New Technologies, First University Symposium, 15 December 1981, University of Waterloo


185 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography
ISBN 0-88898-040-X




Edited by N.C. Lind
Reviewed by Dirk Leemans

Dirk Leemans, P.Eng., lived in Toronto.


There has recently been a profusion of publications on risk and risk assessment. This volume adds to the literature by publishing nine papers presented during a “Symposium on Risk in New Technologies” held at the University of Waterloo in 1981. The result is a snapshot of what activities related to risk research took place at this university. Taking into account that there is no coordinated program devoted to this discipline, the effort is laudable. The contributions emanated mostly from engineers and statisticians, but the departments of economics, philosophy, geography, and management sciences were represented as well. The papers range from some fine original work to literature reviews and some preliminary sketches for future explorations.

There are nevertheless serious problems with this book. It is hard to pinpoint a distinct readership for this publication; it is not a reference book on risk and risk analysis, like W.D. Rowe’s An Anatomy of Risk (Wiley, 1977) or B. Fischoff et al’s Acceptable Risk (Cambridge University Press, 1981), nor is it a collection of first-rate papers on the topic like R.C. Schwing and W.A. Albers (eds.) Societal Risk Assessment: How Safe is Safe Enough? (Plenum, 1980).

There is also a lack of cohesion and editorial firmness. The authors present their work without checking what their colleagues wrote, which results, for instance, in the same familiar arguments about the problems of valuing human life being presented twice. The general perspective on risk is very engineering-oriented without being practical — hardly any case studies or data are presented — while the political process and the philosophical aspects are hardly dealt with. All this notwithstanding, I would be remiss if I did not point to the fine paper by Hipel and Fraser on metagame analysis of conflicts. Their analysis of the socio-political implications of the Garrison Diversion Unit conflict is a model for what original contributions to the field of risk should be.


“Technological Risk: Proceedings of a Symposium on Risk in New Technologies, First University Symposium, 15 December 1981, University of Waterloo,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed September 23, 2023,