Probing the improbable: Methodological challenges for risks with low probabilities and high stakes
|Abstract||Some risks have extremely high stakes. For example, a worldwide pandemic or asteroid impact could potentially kill more than a billion people. Comfortingly, scientific calculations often put very low probabilities on the occurrence of such catastrophes. In this paper, we argue that there are important new methodological problems which arise when assessing global catastrophic risks and we focus on a problem regarding probability estimation. When an expert provides a calculation of the probability of an outcome, they are really providing the probability of the outcome occurring, given that their argument is watertight. However, their argument may fail for a number of reasons such as a flaw in the underlying theory, a flaw in the modeling of the problem, or a mistake in the calculations. If the probability estimate given by an argument is dwarfed by the chance that the argument itself is flawed, then the estimate is suspect. We develop this idea formally, explaining how it differs from the related distinctions of model and parameter uncertainty. Using the risk estimates from the Large Hadron Collider as a test case, we show how serious the problem can be when it comes to catastrophic risks and how best to address it.|
|Keywords||No keywords specified (fix it)|
|Categories||No categories specified (fix it)|
|External links||This entry has no external links. Add one.|
|Through your library||Only published papers are available at libraries|
Similar books and articles
Jennifer Nagel (2010). Epistemic Anxiety and Adaptive Invariantism. Philosophical Perspectives 24 (1):407-435.
Harrell W. Chesson & W. Kip Viscusi (2003). Commonalities in Time and Ambiguity Aversion for Long-Term Risks. Theory and Decision 54 (1):57-71.
Bertrand Munier & Costin Zaharia (2002). High Stakes and Acceptance Behavior in Ultimatum Bargaining. Theory and Decision 53 (3):187-207.
Mathias Gustafsson, Anders Biel & Tommy Garling (1999). Outcome-Desirability Bias in Resource Management Problems. Thinking and Reasoning 5 (4):327 – 337.
Colleen Murphy & Paolo Gardoni (2011). Evaluating the Source of the Risks Associated with Natural Events. Res Publica 17 (2):125-140.
J. Alberto Coffa (1977). Probabilities: Reasonable or True? Philosophy of Science 44 (2):186-198.
Timothy McGrew, Lydia McGrew & and Eric Vestrup (2001). Probabilities and the Fine-Tuning Argument: A Sceptical View. Mind 110 (440):1027-1038.
Kristin Shrader-Frechette (1985). Technological Risk and Small Probabilities. Journal of Business Ethics 4 (6):431 - 445.
Added to index2009-01-28
Total downloads21 ( #58,789 of 549,196 )
Recent downloads (6 months)0
How can I increase my downloads?