Philip Tetlock – Ignore confident forecasters

Posted on Saturday, January 27th, 02007 by Stewart Brand
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Philip Tetlock

Ignore confident forecasters

“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…

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  • But surely (and yes, it is ironic) confidence isn’t the marker to avoid: relentless adherence to inflexible dogma is. Even the foxes are confident in their predictions sometimes, but that is because they have evaluated the alternatives, not because they’ve run it through their particular pet equation and gotten “The Answer”.

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  • Tetlock’s work provides a foundation to what many of us have believed for some time. Were he to have left it there, his achievement would be noteworthy. His research and analysis proffers refinements to the major conclusion of fox vs hedgehog.

    My concern for his work is it is ignored. Even those who taut its merits are inclined to forget the conclusion and applicability to their own behavior.

    Tetlock’swork is germane to our freedom and security … economic, homeland and national. The WMD conclusion is a nightmare that consumed our youth, our riches and reputation … and much more. Had our intelligence community practiced less the expert and more the fox, maybe the conclusion would have been different and/or the courage to challenge existed.

    Tetlock’s work screams out the need for asymmetric views and counter measures. But the bias in our thinking pulls our center of gravity to our hedgehog position. Illustrations are the Isreli-centric thinking in our intelligence community , dogma in financial fraud detection, and resistance to carbon emission reduction by business

  • vanderleun

    The Iraq coda at the end now seems oddly out of date and off target.

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