The ghastly fate of the Titan has already sparked one commentator into making a predictably incendiary semi-political comment, so with a bit of trepidation I shall essay another ...
Many years ago I rode my first flume. It was a monster, a 10-metre drop with the entertaining feature that the tubing was fully opaque black plastic, so that after the first bend in the fully-enclosed tunnel, one was in pitch darkness for the remainder of the descent. So here I am, falling out of control, unable to see anything, bashing up against the walls and surrounded by water, with all instincts screaming "that's it, you've killed yourself". However, intellectually I clung to the reassuring thought that if it was actually fatal, it wouldn't be allowed.
Neither of these conflicting emotions are carefully worked-through, pre-considered rational responses, they are just what different bits of the mind throw up in extreme circumstances. The first of the two is rather basic visceral stuff. The second is more interesting, albeit equally spontaneous - an experience-based reaction from someone brought up in the normally-regulated western world which licences and monitors such things. Whether we recognize it or not, we tacitly bank on that kind of thing, e.g. every time we drive on a motorway or fly in a plane. Passenger aviation in the developed world is a particularly good example because there is quite literally zero tolerance for any avoidable mishaps in that sphere, cost no object; and exceptionally successful it is, too.
(I say some of this rather obvious stuff for the benefit of any hyper-libertarians out there, with caveat emptor their only slogan, who affect to despise regulation in all its forms . No you don't, chum - your life depends on it, and plenty of it, to a high, if unobtrusive standard.)
Personally, I'm a former soldier (bit of danger there, and nobody made me do it): and as an individual - and a father - I have joyfully indulged in, and encouraged, all manner of non-risk-free adventurous activities. But in all of that I was competent to assess the risks, and to mitigate them intelligently. But what do we say about unregulated ocean-floor tourism? Despite the waivers they signed and the warnings they were given, were these recent hapless victims not just a little bit relying on that advanced-society, learned-instinct feeling that it must be OK because otherwise, they just wouldn't ... ... would they?
Which brings us to two semi-political thoughts, specifically for 2023.
- What's to be said about the mad billionaires' rush into amateur space travel? Can't help thinking there will be rather fewer takers now, BTW.
- What's to be said when the regulating authorities aren't adequately resourced to do their jobs?