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Monday, January 4, 2016

HOW TO BECOME A TOP EXPERT AT PREDICTION: you won't predict what happens next!


WaPo - the secrets top experts use to make perfect predictions! I couldn't predict what happened next!:

People are often spectacularly bad at forecasting the future. But they don’t have to be, says Philip Tetlock, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania who has spent decades studying how people make predictions. In a new book, “Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction,” which he co-wrote with journalist Dan Gardner,

New book? Ha! Bet you didn't see that coming....

Tetlock argues that almost anyone can learn to peer into the future.

Earlier in his career, Tetlock conducted a famous 20-year study in which he had a group of experts make a total of around 28,000 predictions about politics, war, economics and other topics over a timeline of one to 10 years. After scoring all of their predictions against what actually happened, Tetlock’s takeaway was that experts were only about as effective at predicting the future as dart-throwing chimpanzees.

I'm honestly surprised. I thought chimpanzees mostly throw poop. Darts is something new from them. I'm worried. Soon it'll be spears, then muskets, then automatic rifles, next thing you know a dozen armed chimpanzees with neo-Nazi sympathies march into a public building in Oregon and demand the overthrow of the Kenyan Islamist usurper.

Oh well. Someone get these chimps credit cards so they can sign up for Doug Casey's newsblather. Maybe he can persuade them to buy some semidesert in Chile instead.

While experts on average didn’t make predictions that were much better than chance, there was a small subset of experts that were actually pretty good at making predictions, a group that Tetlock has come to call “superforecasters.”

[...]

After all this research, Tetlock concluded that the superforecasters aren’t necessarily geniuses, math whizzes or news junkies, though all are intelligent and aware. What separates them from everyone else are certain ways of thinking and reasoning that anyone of decent intelligence can learn, Tetlock says — if they’re willing to put in the work.

Then the article goes into detail about what you need to do to forecast correctly. Step one is (gasp) pull your head out of the echo chamber that is your fucking ass and look at some data.

Here's the unsurprising bit:

Another key to being a good forecaster is to try to keep your beliefs from clouding your perceptions. This is a fault that Tetlock and Gardner say is far too common among the talking heads on television and in the newspaper who make the most influential predictions in America, about things like whether the United States can defeat the Islamic State, which candidate will win the Iowa primary, or if the Fed will raise interest rates.

People want answers. As a result, the media gravitate toward those with clear, provocative and easy-to-understand ideas, and audiences tend to believe those who speak with confidence and certainty.

The problem is that those who speak with confidence and certainty and spin a clear narrative are actually less likely to make accurate predictions, say Tetlock and Dan Gardner. And the more famous the expert is, the worse he or she seems to be at forecasting the future. Tetlock’s original study — the one in which he concluded that experts were roughly as effective as chimpanzees — actually showed an inverse relationship between the fame of an expert and the accuracy of their predictions.

OK, so maybe it's a bad idea to give all the chimps with darts a subscription to Casey. Then again, bankrupting them economically may buy us some needed time before the chimp revolution.

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