At My Real Job: Expert Forecasting

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Jason Kuznicki

Jason Kuznicki is a research fellow at the Cato Institute and contributor of Cato Unbound. He's on twitter as JasonKuznicki. His interests include political theory and history.

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18 Responses

  1. Avatar patrick says:

    I need to read this whole thing. Thanks, Jason!Report

  2. Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

    I’m glad to see the comments are working. I was expecting three hundred or so by now, most of them accusing me of being a corporate stooge, and I was sure the system had broken.Report

  3. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    I’d just like to suggest the other possibility that chimps are developing abilities far greater than those of humans and we’d better start stockpiling guns right now.Report

  4. Avatar tom van dyke says:

    I’d think the “grandmaster-level forecasters” profit from their analyses instead of give it away for free or nearly so.Report

  5. Avatar Larry says:

    But this should not in any sense be read as a case for what-do-they-know populism. On one level, it’s a call for suspicion about ideologically driven predictions:

    What about ideologically driven suspicions?Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

      If Tetlock is right, then it doesn’t much matter how you come by your suspicions about expert forecasting. Just have them, and you’ll get fooled a lot less often. For what it’s worth, I don’t think he’s much of an ideologue, either.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        For what it’s worth, I don’t think he’s much of an ideologue, either.

        He certainly isn’t.Report

      • Avatar tom van dyke says:

        Like philosophy, it’s all in identifying and clarifying the issues and variables. Weighing them toward a conclusion, a prediction, is where mileage varies. Perhaps the expert is no better—or worse because of his prejudices—than the average joe.

        We certainly hope that a president is wiser than his advisors, his experts, since ideally his experts will present conflicting predictions/recommendations and the exec must choose between them.

        I like Dick Morris’ analyses of things. Can’t remember any of his predictions being right, ever. Krugman probably figures in here too, predicting 9 of the last 2 recessions, or however that riff goes.

        It could be that keen analysis and conclusion-drawing are separate talents, that deriving usable information isn’t the same thing as using it. Skill is not synonymous with wisdom. Add in bias on the part of the analyst, and bad conclusions can follow more often than not.Report

      • Avatar Larry says:

        I agree you should have suspicions. My point, admittedly too oblique, is just that the term/epithet “ideologue” is over used — these days anyone with a political point of view of any sort is routinely labelled an ideologue by anyone not sharing that point of view. Of course, those who engage in that sort of labelling are often just projecting their own flaws on others. There are those who imagine themselves quite free of any sort of prior commitment, but then that just opens them up to Keynes quote about “practical men” as the “slaves of some defunct economist” (or philosopher or worse).Report

  6. Avatar Plinko says:

    I agree that opportunities to profit from accurate forecasting would be a huge win – as opposed to just having a system where people are mostly paid for what the payers want to hear.
    It’s too bad there seems to be a lot of animosity and murky legal issues around forecasting markets.

    What I observe is mainly that people predict not what they want the world to be but an outcome that flows from the way they want the world to work. So conservatives predict economic catastrophe from tax hikes, liberals predict human suffering catastrophe from spending cuts. It’s not that they want the disaster, it’s that they want the cause and effect to work that way.Report

  7. Avatar tom van dyke says:

    Tetlock Alert: Government by “experts?” Uh-oh.

    The basic point of the op-ed is that, as political scientist Ken Kersch puts it in a great scholarly review of [Stephen] Breyer’s book “Active Liberty”, Breyer’s intellectual roots are less in the sort of modern liberalism that animated the likes of William Brennan, and more “in pre–New Deal, early twentieth century progressivism, an outlook with an animating faith in government by expert, acting as stand-ins for the (uninformed) people at large.”

    http://volokh.com/2011/07/14/follow-up-on-breyer-op-ed/Report

  8. Avatar Christopher Carr says:

    Am I the only one here who sees the infinite regress problem?

    How do we assess the assessors?

    Also, Jason, I recall The One Best Way did not take kindly to Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book The Black Swan, the main contention of which is that society places far too much confidence in “experts”.Report

  9. Avatar Pinky says:

    I’ve been thinking a lot about this during the Arab Spring. I’m convinced that you can’t predict revolution with any accuracy. Every society has simmering tensions. They require a critical mass of people, and that mass is a sum of each individual’s decision whether or not to act. When the next big one occurs, people will be blaming the intelligence services for not seeing it coming, others will be saying that they saw it coming, when really everyone who studied the situation knew the underlying reason for the revolution but no one could give a sound reason for believing that critical mass would occur at a specific moment.

    I had the same thoughts during the last NCAA tournament, and I think the same analysis applies. So I think the next question is, what can be forecasted? Stocks, basketball, and elections if the forecaster has access to better information. (Of course, that begs the question, “what information is better?”.) Revolutions, inflation, and war are more the sum of invididual wills, and I don’t think that forecasting those is possible.Report

  10. Avatar tom van dyke says:

    Remember the lefties douchebagging Glenn Beck for advertising buying gold?

    No, I guess they don’t. But now all the teabaggers got gold at 100% profit, and the lefty green energy investments…oh, wait, I bet there weren’t any. Lefties only put somebody else’s money where their mouth is.

    This is just too rent-seeking fucking funny:

    http://www.altenergystocks.com/archives/2011/07/ges_mark_vachon_gas_is_massive.htmlReport