This blog is about reasons to be uncertain – with attitude. It holds that uncertainty is badly neglected, suppressed, and needs to be more muscular.
People often apologise for their uncertainty, experts included: ‘I’m sorry, we can’t be sure…’ That, or they exaggerate their confidence in their understanding and judgement, perhaps believing that to admit doubt would be to undermine their own authority.
Despite knowing little for sure about anything, I will be defiantly un-apologetic. This blog will argue, in fact, that uncertainty is one of the few things we need more of. It should, perversely, be more assertive (at least, I think I think so). Confidence, on the other hand, strutting in the limelight, needs to take a step back and find more humility.
These are some of the main themes of a book I wrote called The Hidden Half – How the World Conceals its Secrets. The book argues – with numerous examples – that we suffer from a bad case of over-confidence in our ability to spot patterns, regularity, laws and general rules. We think we know what’s going on around here – in life, business, research and politics. All too often, we’re wrong. We over-rate our powers of analysis. I try to suggest reasons why which are rooted not inside our own heads, but in the complexity of causality, and offer ideas about what to do to improve matters.
Naturally, the book is full of curious stories: there are criminals, aid projects, a photocopier, a crayfish, economic data, business blunders, a nuclear disaster… all sorts. The blog will not contain the same material but it will be in the same vein. It won’t be prolific, but I hope you find it useful. MB.