Perspective | How Are We Underwriting for the ‘Inanity’ of Modern Life

By: | December 11, 2018

Roger Crombie is a United Kingdom-based columnist for Risk & Insurance®. He can be reached at [email protected]

As my father aged, he became increasingly divorced from and antagonistic toward many aspects of modern life. It was my intention to avoid that fate when my turn came. I’d be cool, I vowed, come what may. But my turn has come, and I’ve failed.


Item: New Mexico attorney Chris Sevier has married his computer. No doubt it provides him with companionship and sex. No one has thought to lock him away in an institution for his own safety.

Item: More than 3,000 Swedish people have voluntarily — that’s voluntarily — agreed to have electronic microchips installed under their skins. This enables their employers to track them while they use the toilet or have a smoke break.

Item: Due process, the system by which one was innocent until proven guilty, has been abandoned. If you doubt that, consider the cases of Kevin Spacey * or Sir Philip Green. Neither has been charged with any offense, but both are permanently excluded from society. Both may be horrid examples of human beings, but other horrid examples live in my apartment block and people still talk to them.

Item: Unnatural selection is in vogue. Petextrians are people who walk while staring at hand-held screens. In several places around the world, lights are being embedded in sidewalks so that people won’t have to look up while crossing roads. The more obvious approach, letting them walk under large vehicles, has apparently been ruled out.

Item: A 69-year-old Dutch ‘positivity guru’ called Emile Ratelband has begun legal proceedings to have 20 years lopped off his legal age. Should he persuade a judge to allow this absurd request, he would be able to sue a mortgage company that denied him a loan on account of his actual age. He would also be able to pick up younger women, he thinks. Silly young fool.

Item: British law will soon permit people to have their gender classified in any way they wish. You could be transgender or you could be doing it on a lark — apparently it no longer matters.

I’m an old white man — pale, stale and male — which cannot be construed as my fault. But let’s say I decided to capitalize on those last two items and declare that henceforth I should be recognized as a 40-year-old woman, despite my gray-haired mustache. If you had something to say about that other than “Yes ma’am!” please keep it to yourself.

What does all this have to do with insurance, you ask.


Well, imagine you’re an underwriter or an actuary. (If you are an underwriter or an actuary, imagine you’re a different one.) You correctly base your company’s future earnings on past experience.

Think what my becoming a woman, or 20 years younger, on a whim would statistically do to my life expectancy (in reality, nothing at all, but that’s not the point). Since insurers could not ignore my peccadilloes on pain of imprisonment, their forecasting would be all at sea.

Who said that a society that abandons common sense is utterly doomed? Oh yes, it was me, lost as I am in confusion at the inanity of modern life. &

  • Editor’s note:  Felony indecent assault and battery charges were lodged against Kevin Spacey in December, (after Roger penned this column). Spacey was to be arraigned in Nantucket District Court on January 7.

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