DRAFT

Seminar on History and Philosophy of Science

Friday, January 6, 2012
4:00pm to 5:00pm
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Dabney Hall 110 (Treasure Room)
How to Destroy Probabilities and Lives by Trying to Make Things Safer
Adam Elga, Department of Philosophy, Princeton University,
When a system consisting of many interacting parts (such as an electrical power grid or a banking network) starts failing, it is tempting to make the system more robust by increasing the linkages between the components. For example, one might allow an overloaded power generator to "borrow" power from its neighbors. Taking as a starting point Brian Skryms's notion of "resilient" probabilities, the talk explains how such changes can destroy (stable) probabilities of system failure, making it easy to get caught off guard by a large cascading failure. One lesson is that the existence of stable probabilities of system failure is itself a public good.
For more information, please contact Sinikka Elvington by phone at Ext. 1724 or by email at elvington@hss.caltech.edu.