The work of actuaries entails assessing the financial implications of future events. Though their work is conducted in a variety of sectors they are most commonly associated with the insurance industry, where they utilise mathematical algorithms to evaluate risks for insurance policies.
An actuarial career is often voted as one of the top professions in America, based on income, job security, stress etc. However despite the obvious benefits of the actuarial vocation, actuaries are on occasion ridiculed by others. This is in part due to the fact that they are often viewed as being geeks; spectacle wearing number crunchers with very limited social skills and perhaps also because we do not understand the complex nature of their work. Maybe there’s even a little jealously at their high earnings and level of job security. The actuarial jokes I have come across include:
A: They invite an accountant.
Q: What do actuaries use as contraception?
A: Their personalities.
Though the ridiculing of actuaries amuses many, we all surely appreciate that actuaries are universally extremely intelligent. The actuarial professional examinations are regarded as the most demanding of any of the professions. Actuaries have even been described as ‘prophets of the future’, for their highly evolved scientific minds are able to offer unique insights into the future based on statistical laws. These are often fascinating; for example how is life expectancy going to increase in the future and by how much and what are the risks of certain diseases and accidents for an individual with a certain set of behavioural patterns.
It is this unique way of observing and understanding the world, in addition to their perceived behavioural quirks that led me to choose an actuary as the main character for my book, Charles Middleworth. His name is Adrian and he is highly intelligent, very well educated and well paid, but also set in his ways and some might argue at times rather peculiar.
Actuaries haven’t generally been embraced in popular culture let alone literature though there a few exceptions. Preferred Risk, by Frederik Pohl and Lester del Rey (using the pseudonym Edson McCann), describes a dystopian future dominated by the insurance industry. Manga enthusiasts may be familiar with Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, in which a sinister actuary uses statistical data to predetermine scenarios that will most likely result in certain individuals dying.