In this meeting, the plan is to focus on 'real life' decision-making in government, business and the Third Sector – decisions such as those about climate mitigation and preserving our environment; policy priorities in health and education; innovation, increasing productivity and new product design; organisational and regulatory innovation; when and how to intervene in humanitarian or other crises; how to maintain cyber and other forms of security; what macroeconomic policies to use to maximise the wellbeing of citizens; how to minimize social and mental discontent; etc.
We conceive decisions of this type and many of the other vital ones confronting us as made in a framework of Radical Uncertainty. It means that, at the time decision-makers decide what to do, they may reasonably be able to imagine some of the different outcomes of their actions but can neither know nor specify the full range of possibilities nor calculate the likelihood that the one they desire will eventuate. Moreover, as many such decisions have to be made and cannot be delayed (because not making them is a decision), decision-makers face an additional challenge – how to build commitment to an uncertain course (or be paralysed) and how to monitor and adjust as plans unfold through time.
Within this Radical Uncertainty framework, in discussion between decision-makers and scientists from across a wide academic spectrum, we want to test whether by re-evaluating prevailing analytic approaches to decision-making, mostly based on probabilistic reasoning, we can offer better decision support. A guiding idea is that uncertainty is an opportunity to be embraced as well as to be feared and avoided. Decision-making under uncertainty will generate emotions attached to approach or avoidance. One proposition is that it is time to talk both about the facilitating role of emotion in human decision-making and to recognise the costs of ignoring feelings.
In the panel sessions during the conference, we will use the Radical Uncertainty framework proposed to:
- Discuss the experience of a group of very senior decision-makers (Panel 1).
- Debate some of the core academic approaches to decision-making coming from cognitive science, mathematics, statistics and operational research (Panel 2).
- Hear about some new contemporary research into social and affective neuroscience and 'conviction narrative theory' (Panel 3)
- Discuss several pilot projects aimed at helping decision-makers in Whitehall and elsewhere to confront radical uncertainty (Panel 4).
- Think about the core questions that further research needs to address and how research funding and institutions might need to adapt to make it possible (Concluding dialogue).
The schedule of sessions and speaker biographies are available below.
Attending this event
This meeting has taken place.
Enquiries: contact the Scientific Programmes team