The Illusion of Certainty: Risk, Probability, and Chance

Stuff happens. The weather forecast says it’s sunny, but you just got drenched. You got a flu shot—but you’re sick in bed with the flu. Your best friend from Boston met your other best friend from San Francisco. Coincidentally. What are the odds? Risk, probability, chance, coincidence—they play a significant role in the way we make decisions about health, education, relationships, and money. But where does this data come from and what does it really mean? How does the brain find patterns and where can these patterns take us? When should we ditch the data and go with our gut? Join us in a captivating discussion that will demystify the chancy side of life.

This program is part of the Big Ideas Series, made possible with support from the John Templeton Foundation.

The World Science Festival gathers great minds in science and the arts to produce live and digital content that allows a broad general audience to engage with scientific discoveries. Our mission is to cultivate a general public informed by science, inspired by its wonder, convinced of its value, and prepared to engage with its implications for the future.

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Original Program Date: June 2, 2011
MODERATOR: Marcus du Sautoy
PARTICIPANTS: Amir Aczel, Gerd Gigerenzer, Leonard Mlodinow, Josh Tenenbaum

Josh Tenenbaum and an experiment in ESP. 00:00

Risk, Probability, and Chance. 02:54

Marcus du Sautoy’s Introduction. 06:32

Participant Introductions. 07:27

Are we good or bad at interpreting numbers? 09:45

The Monty Hall problem. 16:00

The fight or flight math means we understand numbers? 21:50

The “numbers are important” experiment. 25:33

VerizonMath: Verizon doesn’t know Dollars from Cents. 29:30

If you play a lottery and there is 1 winner in a 1000, what is your percent of winning? 35:30

How well are our brains tuned for evidential data. 39:33

What is the birthday problem? 45:15

The way probability’s are phrased are as important as the numbers. 53:31

Do we have a conception of a million? 01:03:28

What is a prior? 01:09:05

Josh Tenenbaum ESP experiment results. 01:15:19

“Numbers are important” experiment results. 01:20:45

How do we get a statistical society? 01:25:25
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