Archives For uncertainty

Why more information does not automatically reduce risk

I recently re-read the article Risks and Riddles by Gregory Treverton on the difference between a puzzle and a mystery. Treverton’s thesis, taken up by Malcom Gladwell in Open Secrets, is that there is a significant difference between puzzles, in which the answer hinges on a known missing piece, and mysteries in which the answer is contingent upon information that may be ambiguous or even in conflict. Continue Reading…

As the latin root of the word risk indicates an integral part of risk taking is the benefit we achieve. However often times decision makers do not have a clear understanding of what is the upside or payoff.

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One of the current concepts in decision making theory is that of bounded rationality. In essence we (humans) try to act rationally but are constrained by the limits of time and information on our decisions. So if we make decisions in this way what are some useful, ‘tools of the trade’ that can guide our decision making?

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To Dare…

04/11/2010 — Leave a comment

What is the root meaning of risk? The word risk derives from an early Italian word ‘risicare’, which means ‘to dare’. In this sense risk is a choice rather than a fate and with that authority of choice goes (in a just society) some measure or responsibility and accountability.

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So why is one in a million an acceptable risk? The answer may be simpler than we think.

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The IPCC issued a set of lead author guidance notes on how to describe uncertainty prior to the fourth IPCC assessment. In it the IPCC laid out a methodology on how to deal with various classes of uncertainty. Unforunately the IPCC guidance also fell into a fatal trap.

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The Newcastle 2007 storm

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…