Written in response to a 2008 group discussion about how our college (Olin) had become "less risk-taking" over the years. Worth reminding myself about occasionally, and relevant to innovation in education and in open source especially as things that were once new and exciting become established projects and procedures, and as the bright-eyed neophytes who pioneered them become old-timers in their turn.

You don't wait around for things to become "safe to do" and then gripe that the atmosphere isn't conducive to risk‐taking, because taking a risk means putting yourself in danger in some way. Experimentation and risk‐taking are two different things ‐ you can experiment without taking risks (is an physics lab experiment really risky?) and you can take risks without experimenting (by this I mean you can do dangerous things that don't add value/knowledge to anyone's life; there's probably a better way to phrase this).

I believe that nobody should feel obligated to take any risks they don't want to, and that you should know ‐ very clearly ‐ what kind of risks you're taking on when you get into something (and what kinds of risks may remain unknown). This applies to projects, clubs, classes... and colleges.

The fact that you "can't" try some things out (more accurately: you can't try some things out without penalties of varying severity) means that you have the ability to take risks. An alternative way to phrase the "Olin doesn't encourage risk‐taking" complaints in this thread is to say that "Olin doesn't make the kind of wild experimentation we want to do less risky and more safe." What do you want?