A quite interesting and enjoyable book that I accidently picked up while strolling through the University book store at NTNU. Most books on risk in my bookshelf are either safety or finance oriented, Gigerenzer takes his examples from the medical (mammography, HIV testing) and justice (DNA finger printing, court evidence) worlds, which is interesting and nice for a change.
While I don’t subscribe to Gigerenzer’s very strict (and in my opinion limited) definition of ‘risk’ as uncertainty that can be expressed as a number (a probability or frequency), it’s very worthwhile to read the book and I support his statement that people have to overcome their illusion of certainty and gain proper insight in uncertainty and risk. The book may be an eye opener to many. I have always been sceptical about a lot of statistics, but after reading “Reckoning With Risk” I will be even more so. I guess concepts like base rate frequency, false positives and natural frequencies are now glued to my brain forever.
On a critical note – safety experts may want to comment the DASA example on pages 28/29 (both views about measuring safety mentioned here are due for criticism) and the “Why most drivers are better than average” chapter (page 214-217) where the author oddly replaces the question of “who is the better driver” with “who has less accidents” without noticing (or explaining) himself. There may be a connection between “better” and “less accidents”, but that relations goes one way (better, thus less accidents), not backwards from (less accidents, thus better).
In connection to this book I’d recommend one also checks out Paulos’ “Innumeracy”.
I’ve read the Penguin paperback edition ISBN 978-0-14-029786-7
Note: In the USA this book has been published as “Calculated Risk”
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