John Libbey Eurotext

Environnement, Risques & Santé


The precautionary approach: between reductionism and the “right” fuzzy decision Volume 16, issue 6, November-December 2017

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Technological progress is increasingly dependent on the (difficult) control of complexity, hence reactions that are always uncertain. The velocity of change requires attention to fuzzy decision-making, a model that attempts to take into account one end of the complexity of the world and its constraints, including that of temporal pressure in expert assessments. This point of view attempts to introduce both the advantages of fuzzy decision-making processes in these assessments and their limitations. Knowledge is undeniably progressing, but so are error, ignorance, and blindness. At the same time, it remains difficult to reduce the tension between those who produce risks (industrialists, for example) and those subjected to it (consumers) given that the latter do not have the same weapons to defend themselves as the producers. Without sufficient knowledge for risk assessment, fuzzy decision-making methods have advantages: they incorporate decision-making intelligence into the analysis of the system and allow articulation of long-term prospects and short- and medium term politics. Decisions are rarely made in this way, because advice is often requested in a crisis situation requiring rapid conclusions. Experts should, if given the time, rely on an intellectual construct, and the virtue of the “fuzzy” approach is to allow for concerted advancement and the better confidence necessary to continue on the path of progress.