Life is a battlefield.

AuthorSchwartz, Janet A.

"Set fire to your hair / Poke a stick at a grizzly bear." So begins "Dumb Ways to Die," one of the most popular public-service announcements of all time, where colorful, singing blobs warn viewers about the most foolish ways to end their lives. Created by McCann, an American advertising agency, the animated ad was launched in November 2012 to reduce railway accidents caused by reckless passenger behavior on Metro Trains Melbourne. Just forty-eight hours after the video's release, the song reached number six in the singer-songwriter category on the iTunes charts globally. Today, the catchy tune has acquired more than 100 million views on YouTube:

Set fire to your hair Poke a stick at a grizzly bear Eat medicine that's out of date Use your private parts as piranha bait (Chorus) Dumb ways to die So many dumb ways to die Dumb ways to die So many dumb ways to die Get your toast out with a fork Do your own electrical work Teach yourself how to fly Eat a two-week-old unrefrigerated pie (Chorus) Invite a psycho-killer inside Scratch a drug dealer's brand new ride Take your helmet off in outer space Use your clothes dryer as a hiding place (Chorus) Keep a rattlesnake as a pet Sell both your kidneys on the Internet Eat a tube of superglue I wonder, what this red button will do? (Chorus) Dress up like a moose during hunting season Disturb a nest of wasps for no good reason Stand on the edge of a train station platform Drive around the boom gates at a level crossing Run across the tracks between the platforms They may not rhyme but they're quite possibly The dumbest ways to die So many dumb ways to die die die die die die die die die "Dumb Ways to Die " is a very catchy song, so unless you want to keep on singing it in your mind for the rest of the day, don't go to YouTube, don't type "Dumb Ways to Die," and don't watch it.

Although the tune is very catchy, and although running "across the tracks between the platforms" is undoubtedly a dumb move, we suspect that the real dumb ways to die are much more mundane and much less spectacular. And even worse, it might be the case that the really dumb ways to die are not the rare occurrences where we mistakenly run into trouble--they are the result of technologies that we deliberately create without thinking too much about their potential downside. Take texting, for example, and then combine it with walking or driving....

Texting while driving is clearly a dangerous, reckless, and stupid thing to do, but it is also a useful metaphor to help us think about some of the ways in which we misbehave--ways that are inconsistent with our long-term interests. Overeating, undersaving, overborrowing, and underexercising are just a few of the short-sighted behaviors we're often guilty of. The list goes on and on. The rising problem is that our ability to act in our long-term interest is only getting more and more difficult! Why? Because our world has...

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