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Author Topic: When in Trouble: Approach Strangers  (Read 3863 times)


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When in Trouble: Approach Strangers
« on: March 22, 2009, 05:14 PM »
Bruce Schneier, famous crypto/security expert, talks about something my mother has been saying for years.. When in trouble -- approach a stranger -- don't wait for one to come to you..

When I was growing up, children were commonly taught: "don't talk to strangers." Strangers might be bad, we were told, so it's prudent to steer clear of them.

And yet most people are honest, kind, and generous, especially when someone asks them for help. If a small child is in trouble, the smartest thing he can do is find a nice-looking stranger and talk to him.

These two pieces of advice may seem to contradict each other, but they don't. The difference is that in the second instance, the child is choosing which stranger to talk to. Given that the overwhelming majority of people will help, the child is likely to get help if he chooses a random stranger. But if a stranger comes up to a child and talks to him or her, it's not a random choice. It's more likely, although still unlikely, that the stranger is up to no good.


Paul Keith

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Re: When in Trouble: Approach Strangers
« Reply #1 on: March 24, 2009, 08:50 AM »
Thanks mouser. Yeah, it works for short term dilemmas, not much for long term from my experience. Just a warning though for those who didn't skim the comments:

The first 6 paragraphs make sense. The rest of it isn't consistent with those paragraphs.

You say that if you pick someone to watch your laptop, you're OK. If someone volunteers then it's less safe. Agreed.

Then you talk about wikipedia where authors volunteer, alibi clubs (which are inherently dishonest) where you ask and someone else volunteers, tor where people volunteer to run nodes, etc.

Trusting people who respond to a general broadcast advertisement for help is more like the child talking to someone who walks up to them.
-Lasko Fransitz

> When I was growing up, children were
> commonly taught: "don't talk to strangers."

That's a gross oversimplification of what we were taught. In a nutshell, we weren't supposed to accept gifts from or get into cars with or cetera... strangers who approached us out of the blue when there were no adults around. OTOH, we were consistently encouraged to be friendly to strangers whom we approached, or who were introduced to us, or who approached when our parents were around.
-Jonadab the Unsightly

Jonadab: That may be a gross oversimplification of what *you* were taught. Some people taught me what you were taught -- others taught me "don't talk to strangers", apparently thinking that by building in that extra layer of proscription, I'd be even less likely to accept gifts or rides from strangers. And those who were taught that shortcut have tended to pass it on to their children without thought.

Dennis Prager has an essay on his page, saying children *should* talk to stragers. (They should not go with them, or accept gifts from them.) But children who never talk to strangers never learn how to "break the ice" with all the strangers they're going to meet during their adult lives.

(Indeed, children who have been trained never to talk to strangers may be at greater risk of coming to harm, since they'll never approach anyone asking for help if they get into a bad situation.)
-Karl Lembke