20 May 2020
‘Model Land’ and its phantasies threaten us all.
by Erica Thompson & Mark Fenton-O’Creevy
As a mathematician and a psychologist from a network studying real-world decision-making under radical uncertainty, we work on the dangers of investing scientific models with phantastic (wished-for but unrealistic) power to resolve uncertainty and produce optimal solutions. In this short blog we discuss the dangers of forgetting that, in the context of uncertainty, successful anticipatory thinking is not about making good predictions, it is about agility when judging what information to gather to grasp an unfolding landscape, and constant curiosity about what might be left out. Algorithms – and humans masquerading as algorithms, or passing the buck to algorithms – are fragile decision-makers under many real-life conditions.
13 May 2020
The need for constructive ambivalence during the Covid-19 pandemic
by Mark Fenton-O’Creevy
“What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning.” Werner Heisenberg
I have been researching how humans make decisions in contexts of risk and uncertainty for nearly thirty years. Much of this has been in the context of financial markets but much of what I have learned seems relevant to wider arenas. With colleagues in a national research network (Challenging Radical Uncertainty in Science, Society and the Environment – CRUISSE), I have recently been working on ways of understanding the technical, cognitive and emotional challenges of high impact decision-making in conditions of radical uncertainty.
We swim in a sea of normally unnoticed uncertainties. In human societies, organisations and groups we construct, negotiate and share social facts which enable us to successfully collaborate and coordinate with others; even others on the other side of the world who we have never met. These shared social facts reduce our felt uncertainty by providing an experience of a familiar world that generally makes sense.
27 Apr 2020
David Tuckett, Lenny Smith, Gerd Gigerenzer, and Jürgen Jost on making good decisions under uncertainty
The current COVID-19 pandemic presents decision-makers with situations where the range of possible actions and the probabilities of possible outcomes are not known or even imagined.