Philip Tetlock: Why Foxes Are Better Forecasters Than Hedgehogs
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What is it about politics that makes people so dumb?
From his perspective as a pyschology researcher, Philip Tetlock watched political advisors on the left and the right make bizarre rationalizations about their wrong predictions at the time of the rise of Gorbachev in the 1980s and the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union. (Liberals were sure that Reagan was a dangerous idiot; conservatives were sure that the USSR was permanent.) The whole exercise struck Tetlock as what used to be called an outcome-irrelevant learning structure. No feedback, no correction.
He observes the same thing is going on with expert opinion about the Iraq War. Instead of saying, I evidently had the wrong theory, the experts declare, It almost went my way, or It was the right mistake to make under the circumstances, or I'll be proved right later, or The evilness of the enemy is still the main event here.
Tetlock's summary: Partisans across the opinion spectrum are vulnerable to occasional bouts of ideologically induced insanity. He determined to figure out a way to keep score on expert political forecasts, even though it is a notoriously subjective domain (compared to, say, medical advice), and there are no control groups in history.
So Tetlock took advantage of getting tenure to start a long-term research project now 18 years old to examine in detail the outcomes of expert political forecasts about international affairs. He studied the aggregate accuracy of 284 experts making 28,000 forecasts, looking for pattern in their comparative success rates. Most of the findings were negative--- conservatives did no better or worse than liberals; optimists did no better or worse than pessimists. Only one pattern emerged consistently.
How you think matters more than what you think.
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What is funny is that some predictions that brought laughs when this was made have actually come to pass. Hedgehogs have a better record if the time frame is extended. While hedgehog predictions tend toward being more extreme, it is logical that extreme outcomes might take longer to fulfill.
As typical in economics, a story of success can be derived if we take a selective time slice.
There are some good points made; don't dismiss my review as a pooh poohing of Tetlock's work. But it's not Gospel either---my review or the lecture (if my modifier is misplaced).
Finally, there is nothing about run-time in the description. This runs less than an hour and isn't particularly well done. There's a lot of stalling and stammering around a deck of PowerPoint slides, half of which aren't discussed. It's like he had this deck, showed up to a gathering and then sort of improvised with what he had.
Unless your academic institution is purchasing this for you, save the money.