“Human beings are the biggest risk to innovations”

Prof. Dr. Mariëlle Stoelinga

Inaugural lecture Mariëlle Stoelinga.

The Dutch have no problem texting while cycling and are happy to install solar panels, but are troubled by nuclear energy and afraid of terrorist attacks. These are just a few situations in which people act and react based on intuition instead of reason. Because looking at the statistics, one can see that a terrorist attack is far less likely than causing an accident while texting on a bike.

By the same token, figures suggest that a greater reliance on nuclear energy has more positive effects on the environment than a rise in the number of solar panels. Even so, people tend to trust their intuition. Welcome to the world of Professor Mariëlle Stoelinga, who today gives her inaugural lecture as Professor of Risk Management for High-Tech Systems at the UT.

The professor knows where the trouble begins. “Not many people are trained in the principle of calculating risks in advance. And that means they often see techniques for calculating probability and risk models as time-consuming and complicated. But as systems become increasingly complex and diverse technologies are integrated, it is more essential than ever that we continue to oversee the entire process. Without risks there can be no progress and innovation is simply not possible. But the risks we take should be calculated risks, ones that we have examined systematically and explained clearly to the outside world.” Read more