1 thought on “Radical Uncertainty: Decision-making for an unknowable future (book review)”

  1. Posted 09/08/2021 at 10:37 | Permalink

    The other key issue in relation to radical uncertainty is surely spare capacity and readiness to change.

    A good example here is the covid epidemic. There was a lot of planning for an epidemic, but it was for an epidemic of a particular kind. When covid turned up, it had unexpected characteristics (eg an asymptomatic infectious stage, spread by droplet rather than contact, a steep age profile of vulnerability, strange impacts on the immune system) which had not been planned for. The Government and the NHS, enfeebled by years of austerity, did not have the capability to adapt for these in the short term, while some of the measures actually improvised could not be effectively delivered for similar reasons (eg the Nightingale Hospitals, erected impressively quickly but unable to operate because of a shortage of trained staff; or PPE which failed to meet standards).

    Thus where services are core services (such as health) it is a big mistake to drive for maximum efficiency by running all the time at 100% capacity, as the Chicago School would normally suggest. There needs to be a good capacity margin if uncertainty is to be effectively managed. Even though this cannot be justified by reference to precise risk management data.

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