Philip Tetlock is a professor at the University of Pennsylvania. According To The New York Times:
Beginning in the 1980s, Tetlock examined 27,451 forecasts by 284 academics, pundits and other prognosticators. The study was complex, but the conclusion can be summarized simply: the experts bombed. Not only were they worse than statistical models, they could barely eke out a tie with the proverbial dart-throwing chimps.
The most generous conclusion Tetlock could draw was that some experts were less awful than others. Isaiah Berlin once quoted the Greek poet Archilochus to distinguish between two types of thinkers: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” Berlin admired both ways of thinking, but Tetlock borrowed the metaphor to account for why some experts fared better. The least accurate forecasters, he found, were hedgehogs: “thinkers who ‘know one big thing,’ aggressively extend the explanatory reach of that one big thing into new domains” and “display bristly impatience with those who ‘do not get it,’ ” he wrote. Better experts “look like foxes: thinkers who know many small things,” “are skeptical of grand schemes” and are “diffident about their own forecasting prowess.”
This is relevant to me because recently I got an email from Tetlock accepting me as a member of The Good Judgement Project. This is not entirely surprising to me. I recall upwards of 6 months ago receiving an email from UPENN asking me to take a survey so that I could join some sort of forecasting project. I was bored at the time and thought sure, why not. The survey was interesting to me because as I recall the questions all revolved around not only predictions but my confidence in my own predictions. There were also biographic/professional questions.
I find this interesting because one of the most grievous sins of an investor is to be over-confident in his own abilities to predict the unpredictable. So, I hoped to be a part of this project, and, well, now I am. The exact route I took to get here I am not sure about because I have over 50,000 unread emails in my inbox and when I searched on Tetlock and Good Judgement Project the only result is very recent things. However, I do recall the initial queries from UPENN. They must have been sent out by a research assistant.
So what exactly is the Good Judgement Project? Good Question:
The Good Judgment Project is a four-year research study organized as part of a government-sponsored forecasting tournament. Thousands of people around the world predict global events. Their collective forecasts are surprisingly accurate.
Cool. So what government sponsored forecasting tournament is this? According to Wikipedia it is a participant in the Aggregative Contingent Estimation program of the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA).
The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) is a United States research agency under the Director of National Intelligences responsibility. In January 2008, Lisa Porter, an administrator at NASA with experience at DARPA, was appointed director of the activity formed in 2006 from the National Security Agencys Disruptive Technology Office (DTO), the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s National Technology Alliance and the Central Intelligence Agency’s Intelligence Technology Innovation Center
OK great, so I am officially serving evil. I wonder what would have happened if this program was around in 2001 and the question Would our invading and bombing numerous countries in the middle east work out to increase or decrease regional stability and security? was asked. Who knows?
So I will continue with the program to learn more.
The way it works is that a question is posed, and I am asked to give not a yes/no answer, but rather a percentage chance that the event will happen and then to explain my answer if I want to. I am also supposed to select from some check boxes the source of my knowledge. You do not have to make a forecast at all.
There were seven new questions today. They were:
|#1414: On 15 September 2014, will the Arctic sea ice extent be less than that of 15 September 2013?|
|#1410: Will an independence referendum *pass in Scotland?|
|#1415: Will there be a **lethal confrontation involving Russian **national military forces in Ukraine **before 1 October 2014?|
|#1409: Will a runoff be required in Brazils 2014 presidential election?|
|#1422: Will Islamic State (IS) fighters **attack a country other than Iraq or Syria **between 27 August 2014 and 15 October 2014?|
|#1412: Will the TOPIX Index close at or below 1200.00 **between 20 August 2014 and 31 October 2014?|
|#1418: Will Afghanistan sign a Bilateral Security Agreement with the United States **before 1 November 2014?|
I dont have to answer right away, and I am sure that these guys want my prediction and not group ones from my blog. But for now I will answer the sea ice extent question. As I understand it sea ice extent is increasing year over year, even if the total volume of ice is decreasing (i.e. it is expanding but getting thinner).
I have strong feelings about the Russian clash in Ukraine question as well, but will hold off for a day. In short, Ukraine is getting increasingly desperate and will provoke a clash in order to try to inflame the west. By the way, why havent we heard the MH17 Air Traffic Control tapes yet? Can you remember a single other airline disaster when they werent released within days?