GSD presentation: ‘Scientific Uncertainties and Moral Dilemmas’ at European Forum Alpbach

August 22 2009,
Alpbach, Austria

European Forum Alpbach

Dealing with major policy issues, such as climate change and sustainable development, involves many branches of science and technology in each of the component parts of the research and planning.

Combining these branches effectively, and making decisions that are also consistent with policy goals and perceptions of political and economic reality is the practical political challenge.

Complex systems analysis provides methodologies in which the whole policy process becomes a system, with distinct sub-systems, which as they interact, in response to inputs and feedbacks to outputs, determine much of the overall behaviour. These concepts and the detailed associated modelling tools provide insights and statistical predictions for decision makers.

The question of how far systems could or should be integrated is a pivotal one, given uncertainties about data and the risks of simultaneous failure of multiple sub-systems – e.g. in certain environmental conditions. On the other hand, integrated policies sometimes have the advantage of greater public acceptance – as opinion polls suggest – which is consistent with the philosophies of Kant and H.Poincare who taught us that an idea, or a calculation, is more understandable and acceptable if it is related in some experiential way to other ideas about which we are already confident (e.g. relating uncertain climate change policies to well established environmental policies).

GSD could be used more widely, as well as deeply, to examine policy issues and this could be done openly so as to increase trust indecision-making.

Organised by Ralph Dum