Michaelmas Term 2014

Thursday, 30 October, 2:00

Luc Bovens  (LSE) and Bryan Roberts (LSE)

Maximising the Chance of Doing a Best Action: Jill and John Revisited

ABSTRACT. We compare two decision rules viz. (ME) Maximise Expectations and (MCBA) Maximise the Chance of doing a Best Action.  ME enjoins us to choose the action which maximises expected utility.  MCBA enjoins us to choose the action that maximises the ex post chance of having done a best action.  Jackson (Ethics, 1991) argued that MCBA is an unacceptable rule for moral decision-making.  His Jill-and-John counter example involves a choice set containing more than two elements and with dependencies between the outcomes of the actions.  We examine how both rules behave in a simple binary choice with independent actions.   We explore how these decision rules may be more and less reasonable depending on one’s attitudes towards regret minimisation and on the scale of utility measurement.  Nonetheless, what remains disconcerting about the MCBA is that it violates separability and that MCBA choosers may become more risk averse when there is less at stake.

Thursday, 27 November, 2:00

Brian Hill (HEC, Paris) 

Confidence as a Source of Deferral

ABSTRACT. One apparent reason for deferring a decision – abstaining from choosing, leaving  the decision open to be taken by someone else, one’s later self, or nature – is for lack of  sufficient confidence in the relevant beliefs. This paper develops an axiomatic theory  of decision in situations where a costly deferral option is available that captures this  source of deferral. Drawing on it, a preliminary behavioural comparison with other  accounts of deferral, such as those based on information asymmetry, is undertaken, and  a simple multi-factor model of deferral – involving both confidence and information  considerations – is formulated. The model suggests that incorporating confidence can  account for cases of deferral that traditional accounts have trouble explaining.

Working paper.  |

Thursday, 4 December, 2:00

Richard Bradley  (LSE)

Pooling Expert Opinion

We will look at the question of how to combine expert opinion in situations in which they disagree in their probabilistic assessments of one or more variables. The main aim will be to survey the existing literature in order to establish what are the most promising lines of research. Everyone should look at the Genest and Zidek survey| (focus on sections 3, 4 and 6), which we will use as the basis for discussion. This paper |by Dietrich and List is also useful.

Thursday, 11 December, 2:00

Casey Helgeson (LSE)

Climate Change Uncertainties and  Expert Elicitation

This talk will introduce the topic of expert-elicited knowledge as an input to risk management and policy decision making, and survey applications in the field of climate/global change. Topics to include: elicitation methodology, whether to aggregate expert opinions, expert elicitation versus `expert judgment' in IPCC assessments, and the role of expert elicitation in climate services. The main aim is to identify areas for research. Slides (Prezi)| | Extended Bibliography (pdf)|

Summer Term 2014

Thursday, 1 May, 11:00 

Discussion of IPCC Working Group I Summary for Policymakers 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently released the newest report from Working Group I, the group tasked with assessing 'the physical scientific aspects of the climate system and climate change.' At this meeting we will discuss the Summary for Policymakers (SPM) document that is based on the full report (1500 pages) of Working Group I. WGI SPM|

Thursday, 8 May, 2:00

Hykel Hosni  (LSE and Scuola Normale Superiore) 

Derivatives and systemic risk: A qualitative analysis

Slides [pdf]|

Thursday, 22 May, 2:00

Discussion of IPCC WGII and WGIII Summaries for Policymakers

Working Group II of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) addresses impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability; Working Group III addresses mitigation. We will discuss both Summaries for Policymakers at this meeting, with emphasis on WGIII. A quick overview of WGII will be presented, followed by an open-ended discussion of WGIII. Please read the WGIII SPM| before the meeting.  

Thursday, 5 June,  10:30 - 3:40

Managing Severe Uncertainty project day

The purpose of this event is to discuss and shape the future research directions of the MSU project. Project members will present sketches of their research plans, and guests from the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, and from the Centre for the Analysis of Timeseries will talk about their own research and/or make suggestions about promising directions of research. 

MORNING SESSION,  10:30 -- 12:30. Simon Dietz (Grantham), Charlotte Werndl, Tom Rowe, Dave Stainforth (Grantham and CATS), Katie Steele, Casey Helgeson, Richard Bradley.

LUNCH BREAK, 12:30 -- 1:30.

AFTERNOON SESSION, 1:30 -- 3:10. Erica Thompson (CATS), Alex Voorhoeve, Hykel Hosni, Antony Millner (Grantham), Roman Frigg, Silvia Milano. 

Thursday, 26 June, 2:00

A double header of shorter, work-in-progress research presentations, from Alex Voorhoeve  (LSE) and  Roman Frigg  (LSE).

Alex Voorhoeve  (co-authors: Ken Binmore, Lisa Stewart and Arnaldur Stefansson) 

Framing and Ambiguity Aversion

ABSTRACT: I shall report on a new series of experiments on behaviour in the face of ambiguity. Contrary to other research, we find little effect of framing on people's choices under ambiguity. In particular: 1. We find no significant evidence of a switch from ambiguity-averse behaviour for gains to ambiguity-loving behaviour for losses; 2. We find only modest effects of making ambiguity especially salient. Indeed, the model that best fits our data is one in which subjects primarily choose in accordance with the Sure-Thing Principle, with a modest tendency to depart from this principle in an ambiguity-averse direction.

Roman Frigg 

Evidence-Based Policy in the  Face of Uncertainty?

ABSTRACT: I review the prospects of evidence based policy in the face of severe uncertainty. I criticise approaches that produce probabilities based on model outputs and suggest that actionable projections should be produced by aggregating suitably elicited expert judgment. 

Lent Term 2014

Thursday, 23 January, 2:30 - 4:30 

Decision Theory Masterclass (1 of 3), Richard Bradley (LSE)

This masterclass will provide an introduction to the main theory of decision making under uncertainty, covering the Savage and Anscombe-Aumann framework's, the Ellsberg paradox and the debate over the quantification of uncertainty, theories of decision under ignorance and perhaps some of the early alternatives to Savage. The class will not assume any prior knowledge of decision theory but will cover the basics at very high speed. Slides [pdf]|

Thursday, 30 January, 2:30 - 4:30

Ken Binmore  (Bristol and UCL, Economics and Philosophy)

Rational Decisions in Large Worlds

ABSTRACT: Savage denied that Bayesian decision theory applies in large worlds. A minimal extension of Bayesian decision theory to a large-world context assigns upper and lower probabilities to ambiguous or uncertain events—those to which a single probability cannot be assigned. The orthodox Hurwicz criterion evaluates an ambiguous or uncertain event as a weighted arithmetic mean of its upper and lower probability. The ambiguity or uncertainty aversion reported in experiments on the Ellsberg paradox is then explained by assigning a larger weight to the lower probability of winning than to the upper probability. This paper reviews a possible framework for assessing both the arithmetic Hurwicz criterion and a geometric variant. It then argues that only the case of equal weights satisfies appropriate consistency requirements—a result that accords with our own experiments on the Ellsberg paradox. However, the geometric Hurwicz criterion allows another and more severe interpretation of uncertainty aversion that persists even in the case of equal weights.

Thursday, 13 February, 2:30 - 4:30

Decision Theory Masterclass (2 of 3) Katie Steele (LSE)

This 2nd Decision Theory Masterclass pursues a topic that is related but somewhat independent of Decision Theory Masterclasses 1 and 3. The first part will introduce the standard decision theory (expected utility) model for determining the ‘value of information’, or in other words, how much we should be willing to pay (whether in time, money, brainpower or other resources) to pursue new information/evidence, given the decision problems that we face. Philosophical applications of this model will be discussed, and its limitations explored. The second part will shift to the context of severe uncertainty, and what role considerations of the ‘value of information’ may play in debates about rational decision-making in this context.

Thursday, 27 February, 2:30 - 4:30

Charlotte Werndl  (LSE)

On Defining Climate and Climate Change

This talk analyses the main candidates for a definition of climate and climate change. Five desiderata on a definition of climate are presented: it should be empirically applicable, it should correctly classify different climates, it should not depend on our knowledge, is should be applicable to the past, present and future and it should be mathematically well-defined. Then five definitions are discussed: climate as distribution over time for constant external conditions, climate as distribution over time when the external conditions vary as in reality, climate as distribution over time relative to regimes of varying external conditions, climate as the ensemble distribution for constant external conditions, and climate as the ensemble distribution when the external conditions vary as in reality. The third definition is novel and is introduced as a response to problems with existing definitions. The conclusion is that most definitions encounter serious problems and that the third definition is most promising. Paper [pdf]|

Thursday, 6 March, 2:30 - 4:30

Decision Theory Masterclass (3 of 3) Richard Bradley (LSE)

In this third masterclass I will be presenting the main 'post-Bayesian' models of decision making under uncertainty (ambiguity), including Maximin EU, the 'smooth' model of ambiguity and Bewley's theory of choice under incompleteness. In order to understand the background for these models I will look briefly at the older literature on decision making under ignorance and present the Anscombe-Aumann framework within which much of the contemporary literature works. Slides [pdf]|

Michaelmas Term 2013

Thursday, 24 October, 2:30 - 4:30 

Climate Models Masterclass (1 of 3), Roman Frigg (LSE) 

The three masterclasses are in effect a crash course in the natural science aspects of climate change. Everybody wishing to understand the basic physics behind climate change and the use of climate models is welcome to attend; no prior knowledge is presupposed. The first lecture explains the earth's energy balance and introduces basic concepts such as the greenhouse effect, radiative forcing, time lags, feedback loops, climate sensitivity and climate variability. The second lecture reviews the empirical evidence for climate change and discusses some sceptical claims. The third lecture introduces climate models and discusses what kinds of uncertainties attach to them. Slides [pdf]|

Thursday, 14 November, 2:30 - 4:30 

Climate Models Masterclass (2 of 3) Roman Frigg (LSE) 

See Oct 24 meeting for description.  Slides [pdf]|

Thursday, 21 November, 3:00 - 4:30

The Classification of Uncertainty, Richard Bradley (LSE)

This meeting will be devoted to a discussion of how different kinds of uncertainty should be classified. Note the time change: 3:00 - 4:30.

Thursday, 5 December, 2:30 - 4:30 

Climate Models Masterclass (3 of 3) Roman Frigg (LSE)

See Oct 24 meeting for description. Slides [pdf]|

Thursday, 12 December, 2:30 - 4:30 

Discussion of forthcoming papers by Nicholas Stern



Unless otherwise indicated, all meetings take place in LAK 2.06.

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