May 16, 2017

Uncertainty, probability, and ambiguity.

From the article:

I define uncertainty as the subjective consciousness of ignorance. As such, uncertainty is a “metacognition”—a thinking about thinking—characterized by self-awareness of incomplete knowledge about some aspect of the world. Our concern is with the uncertainty that pertains to clinical evidence and exists in the minds of producers and consumers of this evidence. Three principal sources of this uncertainty can be distinguished: (a) probability, (b) ambiguity, and (c) complexity (Han, Klein, & Arora, 2011). Probability (otherwise known as “risk”) refers to the fundamental indeterminacy or randomness of future outcomes and has also been termed “aleatory” or first-order uncertainty; the exemplar is the point estimate of risk (e.g., “20% probability of benefit from treatment”). Ambiguity refers to the lack of reliability, credibility, or adequacy of information about probability and is also known as “epistemic” or “second-order” uncertainty. Ambiguity arises in situations in which risk information is unavailable, inadequate, or imprecise; the exemplar is the confidence interval around a point estimate (e.g., “10% to 30% probability of benefit from treatment”). Complexity refers to features of risk information that make it difficult to understand; examples include the presence of conditional probabilities or of multiplicity in risk factors, outcomes, or decisional alternatives, which diminish their comprehensibility or produce information overload.
Han, P. K. J. (2013). Conceptual, Methodological, and Ethical Problems in Communicating Uncertainty in Clinical Evidence. Medical Care Research and Review : MCRR, 70(1 0), 14S–36S.

Han, P. K. J., Klein, W. M. P., & Arora, N. K. (2011). Varieties of uncertainty in health care: a conceptual taxonomy. Medical Decision Making, 31(6), 828–838.

Although uncertainty makes us feel uncomfortable it is important to acknowledge it.

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1. You should attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.
2. You should list any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).
3. You should mention anything you have learned from your target.
4. Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.
Daniel Dennett, Intuition pumps and other tools for thinking.

Valid criticism is doing you a favor. - Carl Sagan