Working Paper Series: Adapting Policy Analysis for Uncertain Futures

Adapting Policy Analysis for Uncertain Futures
April 10, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Planning for Everything (Besides Death and Taxes)

April 3, 2019 | Susan Dudley, Daniel R. Pérez, Brian Mannix, & Christopher Carrigan

Policymakers face demands to act today to protect against a wide range of future risks, and to do so without impeding economic growth. Yet traditional analytical tools may not be adequate to frame the relevant uncertainties and tradeoffs. Challenges such as climate change, nuclear war, and widespread natural disasters don’t lend themselves to decision rules designed for discrete policy questions and marginal analyses. We refer to such issues as “uncertain futures.”


Responsible Precautions for Uncertain Environmental Risks

March 08, 2019 | W. Kip Viscusi

Elaborating on best practices for decisionmakers facing low probability, high consequence hazards. Kip Viscusi points out that these uncertain risks create incentives to pursue suboptimal policy approaches that potentially over commit public resources to less consequential hazards.


Decision Analysis, Muddling-Through, and Machine Learning for Managing Large-Scale Uncertain Risks

March 08, 2019 | Louis Anthony Cox, Jr.

Building on Charles Lindblom’s research on the limits of rational-comprehensive decisionmaking, Tony Cox provides insights on how machine learning can help individuals and institutions make better informed decisions — improving society’s experience of ‘muddling through’ policymaking under uncertainty.


Nuclear War as a Global Catastrophic Risk

March 20, 2019 | James Scouras

James Scouras identifies nuclear war as a global catastrophic risk and suggests that multidisciplinary studies that combine insights from “historical case studies, expert elicitation, probabilistic risk assessment, complex systems theory, and other disciplines” can address many of the shortcomings of single analytic approaches. He suggests that experts can address current gaps in their assessments of the consequences of nuclear weapons by further investigating understudied phenomena (e.g., the effects of electromagnetic pulses, nuclear winter, the prolonged effects of radiation).


From Football to Oil Rigs: Risk Assessment for Combined Cyber and Physical Attacks
March 20, 2019 | By Fred S. Roberts

Reviewing risk assessment to scenarios of terrorist attacks on critical infrastructure including U.S. sporting venues and the international maritime transportation system. Fred Roberts notes that these assessments traditionally treat physical and cyber attacks separately and are inappropriate for considering the risk of combined attacks that include both a physical and cyber component. He proposes a framework informed by expert judgement to determine whether an attacker would likely prefer executing a combined or traditional physical attack on a given target. 

 

Commentary: Policy Analysis for Uncertain Futures

Susan Dudley & Daniel Pérez
March 13, 2019
By: Susan Dudley & Daniel Pérez

3/13/19 -- Policymakers face demands to act today to protect against a wide range of future risks, and to do so without impeding economic growth. Yet traditional analytical tools may not be adequate to frame the relevant uncertainties and tradeoffs. Challenges such as climate change, nuclear war, and widespread natural disasters don’t lend themselves to decision rules designed for discrete policy questions and marginal analyses. We refer to such issues as “uncertain futures.”

More flexible and dynamic decision-analysis approaches that anticipate the need to learn from experience (and that encourage learning) are essential. Developing a body of research that cuts across disciplines to introduce better tools for anticipating and examining uncertain future risks can lead to policies that lower the probabilities and mitigate the consequences of these uncertain futures while encouraging economic growth and increasing resilience. To this end, the GW Regulatory Studies Center commissioned four papers from leading experts in different fields.

Commentaries