A tribute to Condoleeza Rice and George W. Bush who, despite voluminious evidence to the contrary, said, "I don't think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center, take another one and slam it into the Pentagon, that they would try to use an airplane as a missile," adding that "even in retrospect" there was "nothing" to suggest that" and "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees," respectively.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Stop Using Your "Gut" Already... 

Many decisions we make are in reality calculated risks. We factor in the chances of success and the corresponding rewards and we factor in the chances of failure and the corresponding negative consequences. Rationale people make these kinds of decisions every day.

The greater the reward, the more we are willing to put at risk. The greater the consequences of failure, the more likely we are to avoid that decision even if the odds of failure are remote. This is especially true when failure could result in a catastrophe. Rational decision makers ask themselves, "What if I'm wrong?" They don't allow a false sense of infallibility to cloud their judgment because they are "rational."

Learned Hand, a Supreme Court justice, devised an algebraic formula for just such decision making and the extent of the burden one has to prevent the occurrence of an event. This was in the context of negligence litigation and whether liability could be assessed against a defendant for failure to adequately prevent the occurrence of an event.

Hand's formulation has three variables:

1. What is the probability of the event (P)?

2. What is the gravity of the resulting injury (L)?

3. What is the burden of adequate precaution (B)?

Under this formulation, a burden is imposed when B is less than P times L (B
Decisions of the Bush administration seem to fly in the face of the rational thinking. They don't ask themselves, "What if we're wrong?" Look at two prime examples: Global warming and the decision to allow the United Arab Emirates control over our major ports.

In both instances, (L) the potential gravity of resulting injury, is of such magnitude that (P) the probability can be miniscule and still the product of PL exceeds B.

Not only is it a problem that the administration never admits mistakes, it's also a problem when their decision making doesn't allow for the possibility that they're making another one. George Bush's "instincts," while lauded by the right-wing noise machine, have been proved to be less reliable than reasoned analysis which actually factors in the consequences and the potential for fallibility.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?