Wednesday, November 11, 2015

It’s not in the cards

We’d save a lot of time and money—and put a dent in global disappointments—if we would just stop trying to predict the future.

I’m not talking about refusing to claim that the sun will rise in the east next Tuesday.

I’m not talking about the meteorologist who forecasts that it will rain in the Chicago area in the next six hours.

I’m not talking about the guy who says “My wife isn’t going to like this one bit.”

I’m not talking about treating worsening global climate change as a life-threatening certainty.

I’m talking about predicting a bear market on Wall Street. I’m talking about the jabbering about who’s going to be the Republican presidential nominee. I’m talking about experts who insist on predicting next month’s employment figures.

It’s just not possible to forecast a contingent future event with any precision. Too many variables. 
Too many unknowables.

A few years ago Philip Tetlock (Expert Political Judgment, 2005) analyzed 82,361 predictions offered by 284 acclaimed “experts” in various fields, including journalism, economics and political science.

His findings: about 15 percent of the events classified as “no way” actually happened, and roughly 27 percent of the “oh yeah, bet on it” events somehow didn’t become reality. In a New York Times book review, Tetlock was quoted saying these “experts” did about as well as “a dart-throwing chimp.” I’ll rub it in by mentioning that the chimps will work for bananas.

Most of the “experts” who forecast next month’s national employment numbers get it wrong every single month.

Why do we keep paying attention to them?

Why do we keep paying the “experts” to make wrong guesses about the future?

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

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