Hindsight and the delusion of control
Purpose ‐ To draw attention to a philosophical vacuum underlying the current emphasis on risk assessment. Design/methodology/approach ‐ Definitions of chance, probability and risk are drawn from the literature and the development of risk assessment is surveyed historically. A critique of the philosophical basis of risk assessment is outlined. Findings ‐ The paper argues that emphasis on numerical risk assessment disguises the underlying complexity and uncertainty of modern life and leads to a false sense of control. This has implications for the assignment of responsibility and accountability when unintended consequences arise. Originality/value ‐ The paper raises questions concerning the meaning of "risk" and "uncertainty", and asks whether "risks" can truly be assessed and managed in a meaningful way. It is intended to provoke thought and debate, and should be of interest to policy makers, academics, business professionals and a general readership.
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