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Why some value safety, others value risk

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No one has ever crossed the Antarctic by themselves and without help from other people or engines. To me, this is very unsurprising and uninteresting. No one (outside of superhero movies) has ever shrunk themselves to the size of an ant, or turned back time by causing the earth to rotate backwards either. Big deal. But to Colin O’Brady (a 33-year-old American adventure athlete) and Louis Rudd (a 49-year-old British Army Captain) the fact that no one has ever crossed the Antarctic unsupported is very interesting. Indeed, this fact motivates them both to try to do it! When I first became aware of their stories, both men were in the midst of attempting this 921-mile journey, pulling their sleds of supplies on cross-country skiis across an icy, unforgiving terrain. Now, happily, both men have succeeded! O’Brady completed the trip in 54 days, Rudd in 56. That’s almost two months of working out hard in a freezer under the constant threat of death. Even in light of their survival and record-setting, nothing about this sounds remotely appealing to me. O’Brady and Rudd both have wives; Rudd has children. They probably also have friends. If they were my friends, I would have tried to talk them out of attempting what seems to me a crazy thing to do. If Rudd were my friend, I would even want to prevent him from going. I would consider lying to him if that would change his course: “Louis, you can’t go to the Antarctic this year because you’ll miss my wedding/Broadway debut/bat mitzvah!” But would that be good for him? I wouldn’t want my friend to risk his life in this way, but what about what he wants? One thing seems clear from the stories you read about people like O’Brady and Rudd – people who climb Everest without oxygen, or free climb El Capitan without ropes or safety gear –:  it’s really important to them to do these things. So important that many of them keep climbing, trekking, and risking their lives even after someone they know dies in the attempt. (In fact, Rudd’s. . .

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News source: OUPblog » Philosophy

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