Meaningless Predictions (updated)

The NY Times has an article about how Political Scientists can’t do better than random when attempting to predict outcomes (e.g. the fall of the Soviet Union, whether an official is re-elected, whether a nation will join NATO). The author cites a gem from Karl Popper:

Long-term prophecies can be derived from scientific conditional predictions only if they apply to systems which can be described as well-isolated, stationary, and recurrent. These systems are very rare in nature; and modern society is not one of them.

Update: One reader, a foodie (wow, I have more than 3 readers now!) points out that the study was flawed and makes some good points. Check out his comment.

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Meaningless Predictions (updated)

3 thoughts on “Meaningless Predictions (updated)

  1. What I sed over there:

    I wasn’t two paragraphs into this article before I started waiting for Tetlock to emerge. Like so many others who point to his work, however, the author fails to understand two key failings in his work, pointed out by Bryan Caplan:

    1. He only examines questions that are highly controversial among experts. (If 50% believe each way, 50% will inevitably be wrong.) Tetlock explicitly ignores the “dumb” questions that seem to the experts to have obvious answers, but which everyday folks might consider controversial.

    2. There’s no control group. He doesn’t compare the the experts to the average person on the street. The only such comparison in the book is between experts and Berkeley undergrads — who are darned high on the elite/expert spectrum, in absolute terms. And even in that comparison, the experts win in a landslide. The undergrads aren’t even as good as chimps or dartboards.

    http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2005/12/tackling_tetloc_1.html

    More on this here:

    http://www.asymptosis.com/the-top-two-criteria-for-expert-judgment-curiosity-and-curiosity.html

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