Want to understand what Uncertainty actually is? Try this explanation:

“It finally dawned on me what the uncertainty trope is all about. It took a conversation with a nervous chief executive to reveal it, but I teased out the answer.

Most of the time, people exist in a happy little bubble of self-created delusion. We engage in selective perception, seeing only the things that agree with us. Our selective retention retains the good stuff and disregards most of the rest. In our minds, we are all younger, better-looking, slimmer, with more hair than the camera reveals.

In short, we construct a reality that bears only passing resemblance to the objective universe.

During those brief instances when the facade fades, the curtain gets pulled back and the ugly reality becomes clear. We get a glimmer of understanding about our own lack of understanding. That’s when the grim reality of the human condition is revealed — and it terrifies us.”

-There’s nothing new about uncertainty, The Washington Post July 7, 2012


The current usage is another nonsensical narrative, created by political consultants, parroted by an ignorant press, and repeated by clueless dittoheads.

Category: Markets

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

11 Responses to “The Uncertainty Trope”

  1. Oral Hazard says:

    That reads like a humanities major’s take on things — trying to put a grand tragedy literary gloss on a problem that is far more mundane. True, some people are better able than others to operate in an environment of uncertainty, but IMO the really important distinguishing characteristic is the ability to appreciate that uncertainty is on a spectrum and that there is almost always some degree of “fog of war” involved in day-to-day life. Risk takers are not necessarily bad risk managers.

    What this writer describes is an acute threat to someone’s “narcissistic bubble.” Not really the same thing as navigating “uncertainty” in decisionmaking, although I’m sure many CEO types are prone to narcissism.

  2. faulkner says:

    All narratives have an author(s), a point of view, a subject and a theme. (They are not innocent nor objective.) Many narratives are made for purposes – sometimes hidden. (Others are mindlessly repeated.) Narratives create worlds of inner experience, not copies of the outer world. (We are much more “in our heads” than we would like to believe.)

    A beginning question to ask is, Who gains from this uncertainty trope and its elaborated narrative?

  3. rd says:

    Driving a car is a classic example of people’s perception of certainty and uncertainty. When you get up in the morning and climb into your car to go to work or the grocery store, you are not mentally going through all of the what-if scenarios of this activity. Examples are: will the cell-phone usser T-bone me in an intersection, will I run over a kid running into the street to get a ball, etc., etc.

    Instead we take this relatively uncertain act of driving a car as a relatively uncertain event with a pre-determined outcome of arriving at our destination with the biggest question mark and uncertainty being the delays due to traffic. However, in reality climbing into that car and driving away is one of the most dangerous acts we will do in our lifetime. Its getting less dangerous becauseo f the vast safety improvements in the car designs but we still haven’t been able to redsign the average driver which is where the biggest risk lies.

    To function otherwise would turn us into a gibbering blob of jelly unable to get out of our living room, so our brains are wired to largely ignore the normal or hidden activities as risky events even if they are. This has implications for all sorts of things, from driving to work to politicians able to put intrusive programs in place to allay fears of very low probability events like terrorist attacks while largely ignoring many much more common threats.

  4. ComradeAnon says:

    I imagine there is a strong correlation between this “Uncertainty” and how long someone with it has been watching Fox News.

  5. Hallsto says:

    I’m uncertain only because uncertainty is such a foreign concept to societal leaders. I can trust someone who admits they don’t have a clue what to make of any of this experience we call life. Someone who has honestly never faced those questions head on is either an idiot or a coward, yet somehow these types, due to their brazen lack of introspection, tend to find leadership positions.

    Thanks to the return of Breaking Bad this weekend I’ve been watching the series for the past week or so. In season one, just as Walt is beginning his descent, he faces a crass loud-mouth in a drop-top beemer donned with the license plates “Ken Wins”. I’m not into spoilers, but lets just say Ken doesn’t win. I only bring it up because I think it shows the frustration society has with people like this. People who lack the ability to look at their circumstances and admit that, while they had some input, most of their success can be contributed to luck.

    The quote above illustrates just how sad the opportunist lot really is. Most people face the demons of uncertainty in their adolescence, this CEO gets a Washington Post write up for the same philosophical pay dirt most of us mine when we’re 15.

  6. WFTA says:

    Bingo, Comrade!

  7. denim says:

    Thanks for the reminder. The comments on your WaPo link show a common human desire to label every uncertainty with some tribal, authoritarian, abstract label. Once labeled, the anxiety level is reduced. The more abstract, tribal, and authoritarian, the more effective this label seems to be for them. “For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increases knowledge increases sorrow”…. a biblical way of saying that ignorance and being deceived is bliss. Still, truth will never lose.

  8. VennData says:

    Did I ever tell you about the time I won in Vegas?

  9. willid3 says:

    guessing that to many saw reality (which had always been there) and ran away screaming? cause if the executives can’t see that even getting up and driving their car is by definition can have uncertain results, how do they even do their jobs if uncertainty scares them? or do they just beleive that it only applies to the ‘little’ people?

  10. Sovavia says:

    We see through a glass, darkly.

    Human understanding is imperfect, especially about other human beings. We must remain humble and acknowledge the limits of our knowledge.

    When ego is in the way, we tend to make our biggest mistakes (we do not allocate our time and energy properly).

    In any situation (macroeconomic or otherwise), there is risk and uncertainty. Risk is quantifiable. Uncertainty is not. If this is true, it is quite silly to pronounce that uncertainty has increased.

    How can something we cannot measure (like uncertainty) quantitatively increase or decrease?