Simplifying Complexity: Life is Uncertain, Unfair and Unequal

Indexed in: EBSCO.

In life, we often face unavoidable complexities in terms of our ability to understand or influence outcomes. Some questions which arise due to these complexities are: Why can’t the future be made ...
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Uncertain: A Simple World View

Pp. 52-95 (44)

Bruce J. West


Everyone knows the future cannot be predicted and yet fortune cookies are invariably received with pleasant anticipation. In this chapter we review how science came to terms with uncertainty, through the invention of statistics and probability, but perhaps more importantly, how this world view was made compatible with the clockwork universe of Newton. If the changing events of one’s life are treated as being linear, then response is proportional to stimulus, with perhaps a little error. But the error in this view is subject to law, and is therefore controllable. The linear world view, with Normal statistics to explain uncertainty, is the model of reality adopted by most people, either implicitly or explicitly. It is this world view that promotes the idea that equality and fairness are not only what is true, but more importantly they are what ought to be true.


Adrian, Drunkard’s walk, Gauss, Handicapping, Linear, Medicine, Normal statistics, Prediction, Probability, Psychophysics, Scaling, Simple models, Sociophysics, Uncertainty.


Research Triangle, Park Durham, NC 27709, USA.