The Economics of Uncertainty

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very informative I am happy I bought it. Informative, witty, easy to follow. Great lecturer.
Date published: 2020-06-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from There is more math than I thought there'd be. When I saw the title, I jumped for it. And I was enthralled at the start. But, I don't buy these lessons to directly engage the concepts, but rather to just listen to them while I do other things around the house or at work. The Math involved started to get to a point where I had to start to pay more attention than I usually like to do -- (not that is "hard" per se). The concepts are still excellent, and I am enjoying it, but I find that I feel guilty if I am not following the Math at the same pace as the lecturer. So, I would have to stop my cooking and think it through or just miss out on the subtlety of the concepts. But overall, the lecture is informative and I enjoyed it.
Date published: 2018-07-30
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Common sense The information in the course was useful, but it also seemed to be mostly either common knowledge or common sense. I don't think I got much out of it.
Date published: 2017-10-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Helpful analysis of Behavioral Economics et al Kahnaman Nobel work evidently caused major rethinking of role of subjective views of management in business planning (a la Moneyball). Course was quite useful and made for easier understanding of the difficult but very important subject. understood
Date published: 2017-06-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Narrations of uncertainly This would have been more enjoyable it the author-narrator didn't stammer about every five minutes. It's as if the author wasn't certain or absolutely familiar with his own material. It certainly sounds completely unrehearsed. I wish he had hired a professional narrator.
Date published: 2017-03-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Prerequisite Course for Getting out of Bed This course is about life's constant companions, uncertainty and RISK. Understanding risk, identifying risk, ameliorating risk and using risk to your advantage, every day of your life. Now, having said that, I must say Prof. Fullenkamp presents the concept of risk in such a way as for you to understand its role in our financial lives. From our checking accounts, life insurance policies and beyond, to personal investing and hedging theory. Although cleverly disguised as an omnibus primer on risk, it is, in my opinion also a prerequisite course for taking any other money, banking or investment courses...or making any monetary or investment decision. A well constructed broad spectrum course on the topic.
Date published: 2016-12-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from economics of uncertainty I enjoyed the broad coverage of the field of uncertainty in economics in the course. It is a good overview for someone who is new to the area and wants a quick overview or already has experience in the field and just wants to brush up a bit. One cannot learn much detail about the field from a mostly qualitative overview course. I would add a few elements from psychometric decision theory/modeling and more of the underlying mathematics to make the course even better and give students a firmer grasp of the material. More of a quantitative approach is needed to get deep enough into uncertainty and decision making to gain a basic understanding of the underlying theory/practice, the types of models used, how they are estimated, along with their strengths and weaknesses. The professor alludes to these issues but without actually going through the mathematics one cannot get a true appreciation for them or really understand the subject matter. This lack of mathematical depth is a general issue i have in making the Great Courses truly Great. Perhaps offering a quantitative version along with a qualitative version of courses like these and many of your other physics and math courses is a possibility--or at least expand the course note book to include the more quantitative details. Something closer to an actual college course for those who want more in-depth understanding.
Date published: 2016-10-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Good, not Great, Review of Economic Uncertainty This is a good, but not great,survey of the field of economic uncertainty, with some topics, vastly more interesting than others. I found the lectures on Decision Tools, Risk and Rewards, Business Cycles, and the Danger of Inflation to the most interesting. Like another reviewer stated, the last lecture on Stress Testing may be the most valuable in the course. The most important lesson for me were the lessons on converting uncertainty, which cannot be easily measured, into risk, which can be measured. I found the instructor to be knowledgeable and easy to follow. Other courses he has taught, such as Financial Literacy and Understanding Investments, are outstanding and are highly recommended.
Date published: 2015-12-31
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The Economics of Uncertainty
Course Trailer
Man, Nature, and Economic Uncertainty
1: Man, Nature, and Economic Uncertainty

Professor Fullenkamp begins with "black swan" events-occurrences that are considered as improbable as black swans. A notable recent example is the 2008 financial crisis. This leads to an examination of the nature of uncertainty and the best strategy for dealing with it....

33 min
Turning Uncertainty into Risk
2: Turning Uncertainty into Risk

When faced with an uncertain situation, try turning it into a "risky" situation. Risk is probability. Knowledge is power. This may sound counterintuitive, but it's a surprisingly effective approach, pioneered by University of Chicago economist Frank Knight. See where it applies and does not apply in economic settings....

30 min
Five Ways to Face the Unknown
3: Five Ways to Face the Unknown

In dealing with uncertainty, it makes sense to have an arsenal of different strategies. Explore five techniques for risk management that can be used in every sphere of life: producing information, diversifying, sharing risk, avoiding risk, and absorbing risk. Probe instructive examples of each....

29 min
Probability: Frequency or Belief?
4: Probability: Frequency or Belief?

Examine two different types of probability. Frequency-based probabilities rely on many examples of a phenomenon, while subjective probabilities call on personal experience and judgment, often drawing on relatively few cases. Learn to think critically about these two approaches, and know when to use them....

30 min
How We Misjudge Likelihood and Risk
5: How We Misjudge Likelihood and Risk

Improve your ability to handle uncertainty by studying two ways that people reach decisions. System 1 excels at making snap judgments, while System 2 is analytical, methodical, and more time-consuming. Weigh the strengths and weaknesses of each, focusing on the problem of estimating probabilities....

30 min
The Reward in Risk
6: The Reward in Risk

Having learned to convert uncertainty to risk in Lecture 2, now go deeper by investigating how probabilities can gauge rewards and risks. Test risk-assessing tools used in finance, including expected value, variance, standard deviation, coefficient of variation, Sharpe ratio, covariance, and beta....

33 min
Decision Science Tools
7: Decision Science Tools

When is a risky project worth doing? Learn how corporate managers decide whether they should undertake a new enterprise. Discover that simple graphic aids, such as scenario analysis and decision trees, are powerful tools for weighing risk in both business and daily life....

31 min
Gambling Economics
8: Gambling Economics

Gambling makes some people nervous, but it gives valuable insight into any type of risk-taking activity, including investing and entrepreneurship. Explore the role of games of skill and chance in the economy, and apply their lessons to activities such as banking and retirement planning....

31 min
Game Theory: Reveal or Conceal?
9: Game Theory: Reveal or Conceal?

Use game theory to shed light on strategic interactions, which are competitive transactions involving people or organizations. Such interactions can range from negotiating the sale of a house to pricing products for maximum sales. As an example, analyze an intriguing competition between two potato chip brands....

30 min
Adverse Selection: Hiding in Plain Sight
10: Adverse Selection: Hiding in Plain Sight

Adverse selection occurs when the lack of information by one party leads to a distorted result. See how this situation surfaces in many different contexts, from used car sales to investment deals to Internet purchases. Learn to recognize the adverse selection trap, and know how to correct it....

31 min
Moral Hazard: Whom Do You Trust?
11: Moral Hazard: Whom Do You Trust?

Examine another outcome of asymmetric information: the moral hazard problem. This peril arose spectacularly in the 2008 financial crisis, with the widespread sale of bad loans to unwitting investors. But it also lurks in many small-scale transactions. Discover what you can do to combat it....

31 min
The Principal-Agent Problem: When Mice Play
12: The Principal-Agent Problem: When Mice Play

Focus on a special case of moral hazard: the principal-agent problem, in which an agent is appointed to handle a matter beyond the expertise of the person doing the hiring (the principal). The agent may easily take unfair advantage of this situation, which covers everything from home repair to government contracting....

31 min
Compensation Traps
13: Compensation Traps

Delve into the uncertain realm of compensation contracts, which ideally motivate employees to do a good job, but too often have unintended consequences. Survey the pluses and minuses of efficiency wages, piecework, milestone payments, commissions, promotions, stock options, and other incentives....

32 min
Caring, Sharing, and Risk Bearing
14: Caring, Sharing, and Risk Bearing

Altruism is more complicated than simple selflessness. Instead, it may be the world's oldest and most effective risk-sharing system. Discover the power of viewing altruism as economists do-as a mathematical expression called the utility function. Also study altruism's connection to the moral hazard problem....

33 min
Mayhem! Insurance Protection
15: Mayhem! Insurance Protection

Investigate the multitude of ways you can insure against misfortune, from extended warranties to travel insurance to identity-theft protection-not to mention health, car, home, and life insurance. Learn how insurance products work, and get tips on what you should cover and at what value....

30 min
Uncertainty in the Numbers
16: Uncertainty in the Numbers

Statistics are essential tools for dealing with uncertainty, but they should be used with caution. Put numbers such as the unemployment rate and consumer price index into context, probing how such statistics are measured and what the sampling error and confidence interval say about their reliability....

31 min
The Business Cycle's Wheel of Fortune
17: The Business Cycle's Wheel of Fortune

Nothing is as certain and yet so unpredictable as the business cycle; economic expansion is invariably followed by a recession-and vice versa-but economists are at a loss to forecast the timing. Study different theories of the business cycle, and learn how to prepare for the next boom or bust....

32 min
The Danger of Inflation
18: The Danger of Inflation

Even in times of low inflation, no one knows when prices will take off again. Look into the causes of inflation, efforts to control it, and the surprising wisdom of promoting a small degree of inflation. Also examine the disaster of deflation, which is a generalized drop in prices....

31 min
Extreme Markets
19: Extreme Markets

At any given moment, some market somewhere is making headlines because it's either hitting record highs or crashing down to earth. Learn how to approach the uncertainty of financial markets with savvy and common sense. Focus on strategies that can help you reach your financial goals....

30 min
Regulation, Innovation, Excess
20: Regulation, Innovation, Excess

Government policies are a major source of uncertainty, since they can alter our lives in unpredictable ways. Study the surprising outcomes from several government interventions in the U.S. economy. In particular, look at the regulatory cycle model, which shows how a complex system responds to new regulations....

32 min
Global Trade in Employment
21: Global Trade in Employment

Free trade produces uncertainty and anxiety in economic players at all levels. Understand how comparative advantage governs who benefits in the competition for international trade. Then hear Professor Fullenkamp's tips for how individuals can cultivate their own comparative advantage in the labor market....

32 min
No Limits to Growth
22: No Limits to Growth

Look at possible catastrophes that are decades away: alarming trends such as overpopulation, scarcity of raw materials, and environmental degradation. Observe that society has so far escaped the worst predictions of experts, and explore why that is and what the future may really hold....

32 min
Hedging Business and Personal Risks
23: Hedging Business and Personal Risks

Examine tools that professionals use to hedge against financial risk, such as forward contracts and financial options. Study the suitability of these instruments for individuals. Then probe a more flexible strategy: real options, which are opportunities that can be seized or declined as conditions warrant....

30 min
Stress Testing Your Finances
24: Stress Testing Your Finances

Close by learning how to take the economic "stress test," inspired by bank evaluations made in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. This simple exercise helps you anticipate the most significant reversals you are likely to meet, helping you approach uncertainty with confidence and calm....

33 min
Connel Fullenkamp

I love that the The Great Courses gives me a chance I wouldn't otherwise have to teach people who love to learn. I really enjoy the challenge of putting together courses that are engaging and useful!


Harvard University


Duke University

About Connel Fullenkamp

Professor Connel Fullenkamp is Professor of the Practice and Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Economics at Duke University. He teaches financial economics courses, such as corporate finance, as well as core courses, such as economic principles. In addition to teaching, he serves as a consultant for the Duke Center for International Development. Prior to joining the Duke faculty in 1999, Professor Fullenkamp was a faculty member in the Department of Finance within the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame. Originally from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Professor Fullenkamp earned his undergraduate degree in Economics from Michigan State University. In addition to receiving the Harry S. Truman Scholarship, he was named one of the university's Alumni Distinguished Scholars. He earned his master's and doctorate degrees in Economics from Harvard University, where he was also awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. Professor Fullenkamp's areas of interest include financial market development and regulation, economic policy, and immigrant remittances. His work has appeared in a number of prestigious academic journals, including the Review of Economic Dynamics, The Cato Journal, and the Journal of Banking and Finance. He also does consulting work for the IMF Institute at the International Monetary Fund, training government officials around the world. He is a member of the IMF Institute's finance team, whose purpose is to train central bankers and other officials in financial market regulation, focusing on derivatives and other new financial instruments. In recognition of his teaching excellence, Professor Fullenkamp has received Duke University's Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching Award as well as the University of Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business Outstanding Teacher Award. Along with Sunil Sharma, Professor Fullenkamp won the third annual ICFR-Financial Times Research Prize for their paper on international financial regulation.

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