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The Dilemmas of WonderlandDecisions in the Age of Innovation$
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Yakov Ben-Haim

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198822233

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198822233.001.0001

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Uncertainty, Ignorance, Surprise—The Endless Frontier

Uncertainty, Ignorance, Surprise—The Endless Frontier

(p.26) 3 Uncertainty, Ignorance, Surprise—The Endless Frontier
The Dilemmas of Wonderland

Yakov Ben-Haim

Oxford University Press

Some things happen by chance. Chance has diverse interpretations, but probability theory is relevant if there is some regularity of events. Probability also has limitations, especially when considering very rare events that we can only vaguely imagine. There are endless unknown possibilities, and the totality of rare events is massive. Hence it is hard to estimate probabilities of events that are individually rare but collectively not so rare. The rareness illusion is the impression of rareness arising from ignorance of the unknown. The rareness illusion results from our inability to assess probabilities of rare events. Non-probabilistic Knightian uncertainty extends our understanding of the unknown, and Shackle–Popper indeterminism provides a logical foundation. We illustrate these ideas by discussing the vagueness of human language, the impossibility of one unified theory of uncertainty, and the paradox that science is possible because science could someday come to an end.

Keywords:   chance, probability theory, rare events, Knightian uncertainty, G. L. S. Shackle, Karl Popper, indeterminism, linguistic vagueness

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