Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto

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John Kay on "Radical Uncertainty: Decision-Making Beyond the Numbers"

6:15-6:59pm check-in; 7:00pm sharp to 8:00pm book talk; 8:00-8:10pm book sale

Event Details

Speaker Series

Date: Tuesday June 02, 2020 | 07:00 PM - 08:00 PM
Speaker(s): John Kay, Economist and Fellow, St John’s College and University of Oxford; Author of Many Books
Topic: "Radical Uncertainty: Decision-Making Beyond the Numbers" (by John Kay & Mervyn King for WW Norton, March 17, 2020)

Fleck Atrium (Ground Floor, North Building) | map
Rotman School of Management
University of Toronto
105 St George Street

Location: Toronto
Cost: $39.60 plus HST per person (includes 1 hardcover copy of "Radical Uncertainty" and 1 seat for the talk)
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Book Synopsis: Much economic advice is bogus quantification, warn two leading experts in this essential new book.  Invented numbers offer false security; we need instead robust narratives that yield the confidence to manage uncertainty.

Some uncertainties are resolvable. The insurance industry’s actuarial tables and the gambler’s roulette wheel both yield to the tools of probability theory. Most situations in life, however, involve a deeper kind of uncertainty, a radical uncertainty for which historical data provide no useful guidance to future outcomes. Radical uncertainty concerns events whose determinants are insufficiently understood for probabilities to be known or forecasting possible. Before President Barack Obama made the fateful decision to send in the Navy Seals, his advisers offered him wildly divergent estimates of the odds that Osama bin Laden would be in the Abbottabad compound. In 2000, no one -  not least Steve Jobs - new what a smartphone was; how could anyone have predicted how many would be sold in 2020? And financial advisers who confidently provide the information required in the standard retirement planning package - what will interest rates, the cost of living, and your state of health be in 2050? - demonstrate only that their advice is worthless.

The limits of certainty demonstrate the power of human judgment over artificial intelligence. In most critical decisions there can be no forecasts or probability distributions on which we might sensibly rely. Instead of inventing numbers to fill the gaps in our knowledge, we should adopt business, political, and personal strategies that will be robust to alternative futures and resilient to unpredictable events. Within the security of such a robust and resilient reference narrative, uncertainty can be embraced, because it is the source of creativity, excitement, and profit.

About Our Speaker:  
John Kay is a Fellow of St John’s College, Oxford and has held professorial appointments at the University of Oxford, London Business School and the London School of Economics. He is a director of several public companies and for many years contributed a weekly column to the Financial Times. He chaired the UK government review of equity markets which reported in 2012 recommending substantial reforms. He is the author of many books including Other People’s Money, The Truth about Markets, The Long and the Short of It and Obliquity.

Event Co-Hosts:
International Centre for Pension Management 
Rotman Events 

Questions:, Megan Murphy, (416) 978-6122 

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