5.6.09

Swine flu, black swans, and Geneva-eating dragons

Anders Sandberg on What statistics tells us we should (not) be worried about

2pm-4pm, Saturday 20th June.

Risk is everywhere these days - in economy, in technology, in health, in climate. Such things have always been uncertain, but recently our society has become preoccupied with risk and safety, often allowing such concerns to trump any other value.

The more future-oriented we become, the more nasty possibilities there seem to be, and the more we strive for safety the more elusive it becomes. Worse, many problems are radically uncertain: we have no experience with them and may not even have considered them before they strike. But what can we actually say about what threatens us? What are the big threats we can foresee? What can we do about them?

This talk will introduce some of the thinking about risk that is going on right now:

*) how power-law distributed disasters reliably surprise us
*) how to estimate the risk of something we have no historical record of
*) why we should be more afraid of power outages than asteroids
*) why the really big problems always are unexpected
*) and how to try to think when you know normal reasoning is too unreliable.

There is no charge to attend and everyone is welcome. Join the debate!

Discussion is likely to continue after the event, in a nearby pub, for those who are able to stay.

Why not join some of the UKTA regulars for a drink and/or light lunch beforehand, any time after 12.30pm, in The Marlborough Arms, 36 Torrington Place, London WC1E 7HJ. To find us, look out for a table where there's a copy of the book "The Black Swan" displayed.

Venue:

Room 153, on the first floor (via the lift B) in the main Birkbeck College building, in Torrington Square (which is a pedestrian-only square). Torrington Square is about 10 minutes walk from either Russell Square or Goodge St tube stations.

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