Thu, 5 March 2020

6:45 pm - 8:00 pm GMT

9-23 Marsham Street

How to Make Decisions for an Unknowable Future

Mervyn King, John Kay and Linda Yueh

Many of the world’s problems stem from the false belief that we can accurately predict the future. Can we make better decisions by acknowledging radical uncertainty? Mervyn King and John Kay build a powerful case.

Uncertainty pervades the big decisions we all make in our lives. How much should we pay into our pensions each month? Should we take regular exercise? Expand the business? Change our strategy? Enter a trade agreement? Take an expensive holiday?

We do not know what the future will hold. But we must make decisions anyway. So we crave certainties which cannot exist and invent knowledge we cannot have. But humans are successful because they have adapted to an environment that they understand only imperfectly. Throughout history we have developed a variety of ways of coping with the radical uncertainty that defines our lives.

Mervyn King and John Kay know about the pressures of decision-making in the highest echelons of power. They’ve spent their lives and careers making decisions that reverberate across British society — and beyond. As Governor of the Bank of England, King was responsible for the financial stability of the nation. And as a company director, FT columnist and Oxford Said Professor, Kay’s decisions and opinions have been felt across the business world and wider economy for decades.

In this eye-opening talk, they will draw on biography, history, mathematics, economics and philosophy to highlight the most successful – and the most short-sighted – methods of dealing with an unknowable future. They will show how the prevalent methods of our age fall short, giving us a false understanding of our power to make predictions and leading to many of the problems we experience today.

Join us for an evening of insight into the limits of numbers and a celebration of human instinct and wisdom from two of the most renowned and influential financial practitioners of our age.


Mervyn King

Economics professor and former governor of the Bank of England.

Mervyn King was Governor of the Bank of England from 2003 to 2013 and is currently Professor of Economics and Law at New York University and School Professor of Economics at the London School of Economics. Lord King was made a life peer in 2013 and appointed by the Queen a Knight of the Garter in 2014. He is the author of The End of Alchemy.

John Kay

Ex-Financial Times columnist and current Fellow of St John’s College, Oxford.

John Kay is a Fellow of St John’s College, Oxford and has held professorial appointments at the University of Oxford, London Business School and the London School of Economics. He is a director of several public companies and for many years contributed a weekly column to the Financial Times. He chaired the UK government review of equity markets which reported in 2012 recommending substantial reforms. He is the author of many books including Other People’s Money, The Truth about Markets, The Long and the Short of It and Obliquity.

Linda Yueh

Economics professor working at London Business School and St Edmund Hall, University of Oxford.

Linda Yueh is an economist, writer and broadcaster. She is Fellow in Economics, St Edmund Hall, University of Oxford, Adjunct Professor of Economics at London Business School, and Visiting Professor at LSE IDEAS. Her latest book, The Great Economists: How Their Ideas Can Help Us Today, was The Times’s Best Business Books of the Year.