Sunday, November 2, 2014

Tetlock updates his work on predictions

Tim Harford of the Financial Times recently reported on the efforts by Philip Tetlock to update his work on predictions which goes back to an early book, "Expert Political Judgment." In that book he told us about systematic failures in making predictions by social sciences experts. Tetlock is now involved in the Good Judgment Project, and his provisional conclusions are less pessimistic. Good predictions are possible, but only when they follow some pre-conditions. From these pre-conditions, you can also understand his past conclusions: most experts have been historically wrong because these pre-conditions were not met. Here is what Hardford had to say about Tetlock's recent work: "So what is the secret of looking into the future? Initial results from the Good Judgment Project suggest the following approaches. First, some basic training in probabilistic reasoning helps to produce better forecasts. Second, teams of good forecasters produce better results than good forecasters working alone. Third, actively open-minded people prosper as forecasters. But the Good Judgment Project also hints at why so many experts are such terrible forecasters. It’s not so much that they lack training, teamwork and open-mindedness – although some of these qualities are in shorter supply than others. It’s that most forecasters aren’t actually seriously and single-mindedly trying to see into the future. If they were, they’d keep score and try to improve their predictions based on past errors. They don’t. This is because our predictions are about the future only in the most superficial way. They are really advertisements, conversation pieces, declarations of tribal loyalty."

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