or has an unknown outcome. But for an uncertainty to constitute a risk, something must be known about it.[40] Safety is often defined as the antonym of risk, where the level of safety is conceived in relation to the level of risk: the lower the risk, the higher the safety. [41] The construction of the contemporary understanding of risk In pre-modern times, risk was associated with a harmful natural event. There was little that people could do in the face of these events. They could try to estimate the likelihood of a harmful event and take measures to reduce its impact, but the outcome was a product of chance, often ascribed to the will of gods, often rationalized by the belief that bad things happen to bad people.[42] With the advent of the scientific revolution in 17th century Europe, knowledge that once was regarded as belonging exclusively to gods came to be seen as discoverable with use of the scientific method. The emphasis shifted from subjective to objective knowledge and the assumption that the social and natural world follow laws that may be measured, calculated, and therefore predicted. Also, risk came to be associated with human fault and responsibility, seen as something that could be managed and avoided.[42] Members of an increasingly secular society no longer placed their destiny in the hands of gods. The natural events of life were seen as controllable and indeterminacy could be reduced with the calculation of probabilities.[43] Probability calculations always contain a degree of ‘uncertainty’. That is when notion of risk arises: risk is present, not when an event will happen, but when it may happen.[37,42] Society continues to strive for the transformation of uncertainty into certainty.[44] In the early modernist notion, risk was a neutral phenomenon. In the fields of economy and insurance for example, risk was perceived as the probability of something happening combined with the sum of associated losses and gains.[42,45] This idea of risk as a neutral concept dominated until the beginning of the 19th century. By the end of the 19th century, the distinction between risk and uncertainty and between good risk and bad risk was lost, and the focus shifted to negative outcomes.[42,46] In contemporary society, the concept of risk is related to a desire to control and predict the future. Whereas pre-modern society was concerned with events that occurred on a regular basis, post-modern society is preoccupied with improbable events. The existence of technologies that offer to screen, predict and detect risk, gave rise to the idea that harm and loss can be prevented before something is actually at stake. The ability to foresee 23 1 GENERAL INTRODUCTION