Full Excerpt (Via Understanding Uncertainty.org)
- we don’t always know what will happen.
- Uncertainty can be fine. Would you want to know exactly how and when you were going to die? Not many would.
- Stuff happens. The overall pattern of events can often be predicted surprisingly well but not the detail. We can make a good guess at the number of car fatalities next year, but not who will be involved.
- Rare events are more common than you think. There are so many possible rare events we know some will happen but not which ones – someone usually wins the lottery.
Evidence can mislead us
- we often can’t see the full picture.
- Jumping to conclusions. The media reports crimes that make a good story – don’t assume the amount and type of crime reported reflects true crime rates.
- Runs of good/bad luck happen. Reduced accidents at an accident black spot may not be the speed camera but just a change from a run of bad luck.
- One thing may look like another. It doesn’t mean they are the same. Only a small fraction of the women who screen positive for breast cancer actually have the disease – the others are that much larger group of healthy women who just happen to have similar test results.
- The past is past. Things change, and as the banks always say and the credit crunch has proven, ‘past performance is not necessarily a guide to future performance’.
What about me
– should I worry?
- Am I bovvered? How does the danger relate to my circumstances? Seasonal flu is a serious risk to the elderly and chronically ill but not to healthy young adults.
- Can I do anything about it?
- No? So don’t worry about things you can’t change. The asteroid that will destroy the earth may be on its way.
- Yes, but … there’s more to life than maybe living a few extra days, weeks or months. “I would rather have the occasional bacon sarnie than be 110 and dribbling into my All-Bran”
- They would say that, wouldn’t they? Check who is making the claim. What is their interest in influencing me – personal, financial, commercial, religious, political, headlines etc?
- What am I not being told? He may well have got better after he took this wonder treatment, but am I being told about the people who didn’t get better?
- Size matters. A big increase in a very small risk may not be important – twice almost-nothing is still almost-nothing.
The key point is to get the ‘balance’ right for your life.