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Archive for January 10th, 2007

Wednesday, January 10th, 2007

UNCERTAINTY, INTELLIGENCE, PUZZLES AND RISK

Gunnar Peterson, the security expert who blogs at 1 Raindrop was kind enough to alert me to an excellent, link-rich, post of his that where the worlds of the internet security and analytical intelligence come together – “Vulnerability Puzzles and Mysterious Threats“. Some excerpts:

“To help focus and find action steps, I advocate for my clients to separate their activities into several categories, two important categories are threats and vulnerability management. How to differentiate the two? Well, first off, it is helpful to understand where you can be proactive (most desirable) and where you must be reactive. I explored the difference of risk and uncertainty in a paper on Identity Management Risk Metrics

Risk differs from uncertainty in that risk may be measured and managed whereas uncertainty may not….

….Malcolm Gladwell explores a related concept – puzzles and mysteries:

” The national-security expert Gregory Treverton has famously made a distinction between puzzles and mysteries. Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts are a puzzle. We can’t find him because we don’t have enough information. The key to the puzzle will probably come from someone close to bin Laden, and until we can find that source bin Laden will remain at large.

The problem of what would happen in Iraq after the toppling of Saddam Hussein was, by contrast, a mystery. It wasn’t a question that had a simple, factual answer. Mysteries require judgments and the assessment of uncertainty, and the hard part is not that we have too little information but that we have too much…”

Superb post. Had my wheels turning.

I have written on a few occasions in the past on questions of uncertainty as have experts like that Art Hutchinson. Deep Uncertainty is very problematic for forecasting but in making economic decisions -i.e. decisions for rational allocations of time, resources, systemic redundancy etc. – for disaster prevention, we can arrive at a functional and useful, if imperfect, decision making process.

Furthermore, regarding contemplation of uncertainty, I am also very intrigued by the ideas of Nissam Nicholas Taleb, who John Robb has posted about recently, both for the Black Swan concept and the longitudinal, non-zero sum, aspect. They indicate a far greater degree of analytical blindness and limitations produced by our worldviews, frames and methodologies, than are generally realized.

What we consider to be an epochal disaster might just be the least significant characteristic of a far larger phenomenon that goes unrecognized.

UPDATE:

Eerie, the charming mistress of Aqoul, has helpfully pointed out her review of Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and the Markets.

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