While I’m on the subject of visualising risk the Understanding Uncertainty site run by the University of Cambridge’s Winton Group gives some good examples of how visualisation techniques can present risk.
Archives For Communication
Just updated my post on Decision Theory and the Risk Matrix with some more material on the semiotics of colour and the advantages, and disadvantages, of its use in constructing a risk matrix.
Why the risk matrix?
For new systems we generally do not have statistical data on accidents, and high consequence events are, we hope, quite rare leaving us with a paucity of information. So we usually end up basing any risk assessment upon low base rate data, and having to fall back upon some form of subjective (and qualitative) method of risk assessment.
Risk matrices were developed to guide such qualitative risk assessments and decision making, and the form of these matrices is based on a mix of decision and classical risk theory. The matrix is widely described in safety and risk literature and has become one of the less questioned staples of risk management.
Despite this there are plenty of poorly constructed and ill thought out risk matrices out there, in both the literature and standards, and many users remain unaware of the degree of epistemic uncertainty that the use of a risk matrix introduces. So this post attempts to establish some basic principles of construction as an aid to improving the state of practice and understanding.
For the STS 134 mission NASA has estimated a 1 in 90 chance of loss of vehicle and crew (LOCV) based on a Probabilistic Risk Assessment (PRA). But should we believe this number?Continue Reading...
We live under a government of men and morning newspapers.
While Smith and Madden’s argument turns out to be the usual denialist slumgullion it does serve as a useful jump off point for a discussion of the role of the media in propagating such pernicious memes (1) and more broadly in communicating risk. Continue Reading…
The moment we want to believe something, we suddenly see all the arguments for it, and become blind to the arguments against it.
George Bernard Shaw
In this second part I want to spend some time looking at both the logical and psychological tricks of their argument (such as it is) and how the authors use these fallacious elements to sway the unwary or uneducated readership.
Note that I have based the taxonomy of argument upon that proposed by Thoulesss (1934) (1).
The truth is incontrovertible
According to Drew Warne Smith and James Madden writing in the Nov 7th edition of the Australian:
“The science is in on sea-level rise: 1.7 mm” , …we don’t need to worry about sea level rises in Australia as a ‘scientific’ 1.7 mm rise is a third less than the government’s overheated predictions…
How Smith and Madden set out to construct a case that government predicted sea level rises are exaggerated provides an excellent example of how fallacious arguments can be used to misinform the unwary, and in this case skew the reader’s perception of risk. Continue Reading…