We don’t like things getting taken from us, especially when we need them to fulfill a purpose. In fact, we dislike things taken from us proportional to how much that thing will fulfill present and perceived purposes.

We naturally purpose ourselves to protecting what we have, but it’s not an even distribution. We always have limited resources, so we give priority to what we love and the power that can protect our things the most.

When we have safety right now, and don’t have predictions that it’ll change in the future, we have “peace”.


Risk can most accurately be rephrased as “the likelihood that we could lose power“. Risk is inherent to existing in this life, so people become more careful and decisive as they gain wisdom. With experience, people only act when they’re certain.

We usually have a fear of something specific, but it’s rarely rational or likely (especially with past trauma), so we’ll simply feel vaguely uneasy. Even when we use statistics or behave to force an ultimatum, we’re only making our feelings more certain with fact-based possibilities.

The entire point of any security/safety system is from vague trust issues:

  • Walls, fortresses, and blockades
  • Locks on doors and switches
  • Passwords/encryption
  • Antibiotics
  • Guard rails and barriers

The more fear we have of losing something, the harder we’ll work to keep it. In that sense, you can see how much people love things by where they devote their budget and other forms of power.

One easy way to avoid risk is to get insurance. By giving up some power in the form of money, someone can have a separate organization take the risk instead. It’s basically paying rent for someone else to take the risk.

Generally, when making a decision and you don’t know what to expect, the safest solution is to apply “minmax regret” (minimize the maximum regret you can experience). In other words, make the worst-case scenario as good as possible.


Any security system, of any type, can’t 100% stop things. A sufficiently motivated, creative, and talented person can break through it.

The actual purpose of a security system (and a benevolent legal system) is to make the intruders work harder than the reward by requiring them to spend more power to get it than it’s worth (“deterrence”). Nobody will outright admit it, but defenders are often trying to direct the attackers’ efforts to the defender’s neighbors.

Most people don’t separate the concept, but appearing secure is different than being secure. The image of security can imply more power than reality, which is why people use “security theater”:

  • Security guards make their rounds to look more intimidating to potential thieves and vandals, even though a hidden camera with a motion sensor does a better job.
  • Thoroughly searching everyone who gets on an airplane will ensure nobody brings a bomb, but random searches (theoretically) scare bombers just as much.

Thieves and vandals are interested in things they can use to gain some type of power, so another tactic is for defenders to hide their power:

  • Placing valuable objects in mundane storage spaces.
  • Hiding valuable items inside inconspicuous objects.
  • Putting important computer files in unimportant folders.

Finally, some creative defenders will try to make the intruder waste their time on something unimportant:

  • Place rocks in a safe and hide the valuables.
  • Have security guards surround a building with nothing important inside.

The only way to avoid a security breach entirely is to hide the appearance of anything valuable, but it requires tremendous work and creativity to pull it off correctly:

  • Make a fortress look like the surrounding landscape.
  • Name an area something inconspicuous.
  • Veil the presence of the thing with other elements that are far less threatening or high-profile.

Safety’s Risks

The trouble with safety is that we can put too much effort into it. Taken far enough, safety can stifle healthy changes that may have otherwise led to a meaningful experience or good life.

Also, security and safety come with an immovable cost. No matter what, increasing security sacrifices freedom and accessibility. This is because each layer of verification is both time-consuming and could yield a lockdown against the people who should have access (“false-negative”):

  • A completely walled city would only be accessible by skilled wall climbers. That’s why historically cities set gates on each side of the city.
  • It’s near-impossible to crack an incredibly elaborate password, but it’s also hard to remember and becomes another thing to safely store if it’s written down.
  • An elaborate key mechanism is difficult to pick, but the key is difficult to reproduce, especially if it’s lost.
  • In modern society, people probably spend at least 10 minutes a day with habits that activate and deactivate security measures (passwords, car doors, etc.).

So, because of this, most security systems build “back doors” to prevent human error from locking the entire system down and losing the valuable thing inside. Most bad actors become far more aware of this than most people want to admit.

Because of our habitual nature, we often forget why the security system is there and will fail to verify that it’s a legitimate situation:

  • Man-in-the-middle attacks involve the person thinking they’re accessing a legitimate website (which isn’t) to enter their credentials like normal.
  • In a key-card system, people will be quick to give grace to someone who “forgot” their key-card, especially if they share a common interest (like smoking).

Also, distrust can be habit-forming. We tend to identify what we focus on, so we can become obsessive about protecting things. The cure is to ask what we’re protecting and how much we’re willing to lose it.

It’s worth noting that security theater is useful in large organizations to make the members feel safe and trust their leaders without any legitimate increase in security. Some of them even promise it in exchange for individuals’ freedoms!


Legitimate security and the appearance of security are completely unrelated, so don’t assume the appearance is reality, especially with leaders.

Security and freedom are inversely correlated, so expect something inconvenient to protect valuable things. Every country needs a military. Preserving free speech requires permitting hate speech. Success requires loss.