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Embracing the Uncertainties

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/07/science/coronavirus-uncertainty-scientific-trust.html

nytimes.com

Embracing the Uncertainties
While the unknowns about coronavirus abound, a new study finds we 'can handle the truth.' These are, safe to say, uncertain times. The confirmed global cases of illness from coronavirus are approaching 1.5 million, and reported deaths are well into the six figures, but what are the true rates of infection and mortality?

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An Uncertain World

An Uncertain World

The ongoing epidemic, due to its unknown nature, has provided us with a lot of uncertainties related to the characteristics, severity, mortality rate, infectious rate and spread of the disease. These uncertainties make it all the more deadly.

Conflicting guidelines (like on the use of masks) and ad hoc statements have made many people skeptical of the experts, in this post-truth society.


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Kinds of Uncertainty

  • Epistemic Uncertainty: Uncertain information and data about the past or present, which can be unraveled by using measuring tools.
  • Aleatory Uncertainty: The unknown things about the future related to randomness, luck, chance or indeterminacy.
  • Deep Uncertainty: Also called radical uncertainty, it is a state in which there are so many unknown things that the future looks like an abyss.

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Statistics Vs The Truth

In statistical science, risk is an important uncertainty, but a comparing of risks sometimes does not take into account certain human factors, leading to misinformation or even disinformation. This is due to the statistical models being oversimplifications of the real world.

Statistical data is a ‘Map’, not the actual territory.

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Ambiguity Aversion

Uncertainty triggers an ambiguity aversion (a preference for known risks over unknown risks) among people as they feel unsettled and in limbo due to the lack of sure footing of information.

A study suggests that it is better to be completely transparent about the uncertainty than to be ambiguous.

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