Note — May 02, 2021

What Is Going on Here?

Seen in → No.171

Source → hilarycottam.com/what-is-going-on-here/

Second book review in this issue. This one by Hilary Cottam about John Kay and Mervyn King’s Radical Uncertainty is not as detailed as what I usually look for in such posts but still very much worth a share. First, for the useful overview of uncertainty vs risk, and for highlighting two prominent economists arguing for story making and story telling above over-reliance on data and models. Second, for Cottam’s important caveat: there are no women referenced! She easily overdoes the authors with some great recommendations of multiple women who’s work predates the book.

Risk is likened by the authors to a puzzle. It can be solved by existing information ordered in the right way. Uncertainty is like a mystery – we are missing information and in particular we are beyond the limits of statistical reasoning. […]

We are operating in conditions of mystery where our knowledge is imperfect and variables are constantly changing. Climate, economic and social systems are not linear. […]

A reliance on data driven modelling leads large organisations in particular to make decisions ‘on the basis of what is easiest to justify rather than what is the right thing to do’.