Why risk-taking is important

Why do we put ourselves in positions of risk? Let’s take driving for instance. The Association for Safe International Road Travel estimates that 1.25 million people die and 20-50 million people are injured/disabled by road crashes each year. That’s 0.5% of the entire population. 2.2% of all deaths are caused by road crashes. Yet almost every day, people drive to work, class, or wherever they need to go. In theory, we should all stay indoors eating nothing but vitamins and minerals. But no one does. We all take risks every day. The ability to take risks is the freedom that we enjoy. That freedom allows us to grow and develop as humans. In short, without risk-taking, we cannot become better at anything.  

So what happens without risk? Octavia Butler describes this situation in their novel, Bloodchild and Other Stories. In that work, Gatoi is a creature that uses humans to reproduce. Gatoi finds Gan, the main character, holding a gun. Gatoi then attempts to take the gun from Gan. Gan replies “If we’re not your animals, if these are adult things, accept the risk. There is risk, Gatoi, in dealing with a partner.” I think this fully encapsulates what gives us our humanity. By removing individual liberties, people can no longer grow. Gatoi does just that. By then reducing Gan to an animal, they can feel much less remorse when they use him for reproduction.

Earlier in the novel, Gatoi presents Gan and his family with an egg that causes a type of intoxication. When Gan’s mother, Lien, refuses to have some, Gatoi tries to coax her. Gatoi starts by saying “Lien, I would like you to have what’s left of Gan’s egg… You should take more.” The drunken stupor caused by the egg prevents Gan’s family from taking risks. Ergo, it takes away the ability for Gan’s family to resist. This lack of resistance has led to the current situation, where Terrans (humans) are used by Tlic (the kind of creature Gatoi is).   

Gan recounts a story about his late father. He tells us that his father often drank the eggs and lived to be very old. Gan recalls that his father “had lived more than twice as long as he should have. And toward the end of his life, when he should have been slowing down, he had married my mother and fathered four children.” Gan’s father was the perfect animal for the Tlic. He lived longer than he should because of the eggs, and then made more people to use. Farmers use antibiotics to get the most out of their animals. The Tlic uses the eggs to get the most out of the Terrans. Both the antibiotics and the eggs lower risk, which lowers freedom, which lowers the opportunity to grow. 

But why is taking risks important? Most of us want to live long lives. Most of us want to be healthy. Most of us want to wake up every time we go to sleep. Logically, we should strive to minimize our risk. Let’s go back to driving again. As previously mentioned roadway accidents cause 2.2% of all deaths in a given year. People look at that number and try to minimize the inherent risk of driving. People now wear seatbelts, cars are required to have airbags, there are certain height restrictions associated with sitting in the front, etc. No one says stop driving. 

Every great thing that has ever happened involved a lot of risks. From the brave patriots who defended this land in 1777 to Robert Smalls who stole a Confederate ship to Marie Curie who won the Nobel Prize in physics. These three examples also demonstrate a very important idea, that the growth achieved through risk is not only personal but societal as well. Freedom creates the opportunity to take risks. Risks create the opportunity to grow. 

This naturally begs a few questions: does this risk need to occur, do I feel comfortable with this risk, and is there a way to lower this risk. Everyone, conscious or not, askes themselves this question each day from crossing the street to an academic partnership. The freedom to answer these questions is what allows growth. In this class, my goal is to answer all these questions. Firstly, an academic partnership is crucial to the advancement of every field, so the risk needs to be taken. This is seen in the Human Genome Project. Researchers from different agencies, colleges, and even countries worked together. Even with 20 unique universities working on it, the whole project took around 10 years. There is no way one person could have completed this. In this class, I hope to become more comfortable with the idea of an academic partnership. The most important goal of this class is to learn ways of lowering this risk. This is shown throughout the syllabus. The syllabus states “Additionally, students will reflect upon the risks and rewards of academic partnership, including (but not limited to) various forms of consent and sustainability.” Even in our short time, we have taken a pretty deep dive into the academic partnership we have with SUNY Geneseo

But how will the class teach the skills required? One of the best ways to learn is by listening to multiple ideas. We have also have begun to discuss the risks of both academic and non-academic partnerships in class. Not only will the class discussion center around risk-taking and academic partnership, but the class will also be meeting with multiple professionals such as Robbie Routenburg, Dr. Joe Cope, and Dr. Sasha Eloi-Evans. Multiple perspectives can increase the chance that the ideas will resonate. 

As a research student and graduate school hopeful, I know that I will be in many positions that rely on academic partnerships. I hope that through the multiple lenses that will be demonstrated in this class I will increase my knowledge base on how to communicate effectively in an academic setting. I hope to become more comfortable with sharing my ideas and suggestions with others. I am looking forward to learning more about taking smarter risks regarding academic partnerships.

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