Guest speaker Prof. Zach Barnett (Singapore) will be giving a talk on Wednesday, November 30 at 3:30pm in DeBartolo Hall, room 141.
TalkTitle: Against Risk-aversion
Abstract: Risk-aversion can be understood as a tendency to favor known outcomes over gambles—even when the gambles would maximize expected utility. Although orthodox decision theory forbids risk-aversion of this kind, it is widely thought that some degree of risk-aversion is rationally permissible. To respect the rationality of risk-aversion, some have proposed alternative decision theories, which make room for a range of different ways of valuing uncertain options. But a close examination of these risk-aversion-permitting views reveals problems. Specifically, permitting risk-aversion turns out to commit us to choices which can only be expected to harm some and help none, which is a difficult thing to accept. If you come to this talk, you'll get to see my best attempt to explain how this difficulty arises. I'll also discuss how the argument against risk-aversion differs from existing criticisms, which traditionally appeal to the fact that risk-averse agents are liable to lose out in the long run. The argument developed here does not rely upon this observation and can be presented in the context of a single decision.