Catch-up with a Catastrophist – Why we should be modelling the past stochastically

FASS are pleased to welcome Dr Gordon Woo, whom many in the Scottish actuarial community (particularly Heriot Watt alumni) may know from his prior talks on Terrorism Risk.

We're especially excited to host networking with Dr Woo after the talk, where you can pick his brains on all your catastrophe related queries!

Disaster risk analysis tends to be based on actual loss experience. The past is traditionally treated as fixed by actuaries, after all it cannot be changed! But from a scientific perspective, history is just one realization of what might have happened, given the randomness and chaotic dynamics of Nature. Therefore, it would seem a stochastic, rather than deterministic, view of the past is more appropriate.
Already, stochastic simulation of the past has given crucial insight where it has been undertaken to investigate past disasters and crises. Extended more broadly, counterfactual risk analysis can explore the near miss disasters that almost happened or might have happened before, and reveal insurance loss surprises otherwise hidden from disaster catalogues.
Among the alternative versions of history are situations where things had turned for the worse. These are termed downward counterfactuals, in contrast with upward counterfactuals where things had turned for the better. The Ebola crisis of 2014, and the outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome in 2015 provide salutary examples of downward counterfactuals for life insurers.

Thursday 20th July
Talk: Hymans Robertson, 1, Exchange Place, Semple St, Edinburgh EH3 8BL
Networking: AKVA, 129 Fountainbridge, EH3 9QG

Refreshments from 5:30pm, talk starts at 6:00pm
Post-talk networking from 7pm

Dr. Gordon Woo is a catastrophist at Risk Management Solutions, specializing in the mathematical modelling of extreme insurance risks, including pandemics and longevity risk.
One of his many claims to fame involve being asked to provide a witness statement for the US House of Representatives on the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act 2002 back in 2013.
He is the author of the two books, 'The Mathematics of Natural Catastrophes' and 'Calculating Catastrophe'. He graduated as the top mathematician of his year at Cambridge University, completed his PhD at MIT as a Kennedy Scholar, and was a member of the Harvard Society of Fellows. He is a visiting professor at University College London, and an adjunct professor at NTU, Singapore.

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