Luck, Risk, and Life Chances
This chapter explores the ways in which estimates of probability have come to play an increasingly important role in the distribution of the life chances people will enjoy, despite the still substantial limitations on their ability to bring their knowledge of chance to bear on the decisions that people make, or are made with regard to them. The estimation of risk is important for a number of reasons, including providing guidance for the establishment and implementation of public policies. The chapter considers the ways in which scientists treat risk as something about which knowledge of outcomes and their chance of occurring are subject to reliable estimation. Unfortunately, policy makers more often encounter circumstances in which uncertainty, ambiguity, or outright ignorance best describe what is known about risk. An individual's risk status is determined by an unspecified set of influences that combine to determine the probability that some outcome we associate with bad luck will come to pass.