Language of Reliability

When I was the Chair of the Committee of Defence Reliability, I was responsible for looking at statistics to arrive at a judgement about whether something was unlikely, possible, probable, likely, or certain. Looking at recorded data produces a quantatitive percentage that can be translated into a qualitative opinion. The term 98% certain is in fact an oxymoron -something is either certain or it is not.

When this week the President of the USA changed his language from a Russian invasion of Ukraine being probable to possible, I hoped that his advisors were providing him with hard percentages, rather than plucking words out of the ether.

If it is the former, then there is great hope that the crisis has been averted (for now), if it is the latter then we need to tighten our language and explain what we mean more clearly.

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