# The siren call of probability: dangers associated with using probability for consideration of the future

Article

Derbyshire, J. 2017. The siren call of probability: dangers associated with using probability for consideration of the future.

*Futures.*88, pp. 43-54. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.futures.2017.03.011

Type | Article |
---|---|

Title | The siren call of probability: dangers associated with using probability for consideration of the future |

Authors | Derbyshire, J. |

Abstract | Many tools for thinking about the future employ probability. For example, Delphi studies often ask expert participants to assign probabilities to particular future outcomes. Similarly, while some scenario planners reject probability, others insist that assigning probabilities to scenarios is required to make them meaningful. Formal modelling and forecasting methods often also employ probability in one way or another. The paper questions this widespread use of probability as a device for considering the future, firstly showing that objective probability, based on empirically-observed frequencies, has some well-known drawbacks when used for this purpose. However, what is less-widely acknowledged is that this is also true of the subjective probability used in, for example, Delphi. Subjective probability is less distinct from objective probability than proponents of its use might imply, meaning it therefore suffers from similar problems. The paper draws on the foundations of probability theory as set out by Kolmogorov, as-well-as the work of Keynes, Shackle, Aumann, Tversky and Kahneman, and others, to reassert the essential distinction between risk and uncertainty, and to warn about the dangers of inappropriate use of probability for considering the future. The paper sets out some criteria for appropriate use. |

Keywords | uncertainty; probability; Delphi; scenario planning; Keynes; Shackle |

Research Group | Centre for Enterprise, Environment and Development Research (CEEDR) |

Language | English |

Publisher | Elsevier |

Journal | Futures |

ISSN | 0016-3287 |

Publication dates | |

Online | 04 Apr 2017 |

Print | 01 Apr 2017 |

Publication process dates | |

Deposited | 03 Apr 2017 |

Accepted | 27 Mar 2017 |

Output status | Published |

Accepted author manuscript | License |

Digital Object Identifier (DOI) | https://doi.org/10.1016/j.futures.2017.03.011 |

https://repository.mdx.ac.uk/item/86xw8

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