December 1, 2005 12:26 PM   Subscribe

Everybody's an expert, but does expertise promote better predictions?
posted by semmi (14 comments total)
This article is fantastic because it contains this sentence:

"Human beings who spend their lives studying the state of the world, in other words, are poorer forecasters than dart-throwing monkeys..."
posted by justkevin at 12:33 PM on December 1, 2005

This can't be true... I try and do the opposite of what the experts say, but I still never come out ahead.
posted by ny_scotsman at 12:45 PM on December 1, 2005

Note the subject matter of said predictions: politics and economics. Nonlinear subjects of which little can said reliably in the long-term.
posted by Rothko at 1:01 PM on December 1, 2005

People will pay a lot for the privilege of being convincingly lied to, and for having someone to blame when things don't turn out as expected.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 1:10 PM on December 1, 2005

With the internet, everyone's an expert.
posted by Captaintripps at 1:26 PM on December 1, 2005

Still, the suggestion that we can improve expert judgment by applying the lessons of cognitive science and probability theory belongs to the abiding modern American faith in expertise. As a professional, Tetlock is, after all, an expert, and he would like to believe in expertise.

*head explodes*
posted by ZenMasterThis at 1:27 PM on December 1, 2005

Metafilter: we fall in love with our hunches

Yeah, the Amazing Criswell.

Expertise may promote better predictions, but showmanship determines which predictions are listened to. In addition, people seem to hate the “I told you so” thing, so it’s hard to see the upside of accuracy vs. speaking well, dressing snappy, and being entertaining. Monorail!
posted by Smedleyman at 1:57 PM on December 1, 2005

I predict the world will end.
posted by IronLizard at 4:25 PM on December 1, 2005

Those foxes--are they prag-ma-tists ?
posted by halcyon_daze at 7:36 PM on December 1, 2005

I used to follow sports predictions more closely than I do now. The people that predict the outcomes of games were never right very often. I have seen experts in newspapers who actually print their results against the pointspread as being considerably below fifty percent. People want to read these predictions (or watch them) to validate what they already believe. Why should I care what another person thinks is going to happen in a sporting event when the person has established that they are right no more than I am?
posted by flarbuse at 7:52 PM on December 1, 2005

No one is paying you for your gratuitous opinions about other people, but the experts are being paid, and Tetlock claims that the better known and more frequently quoted they are, the less reliable their guesses about the future are likely to be.

Frankly, I believe this says more about why people are chosen for predictions to quote than anything else. It's for their quotability, not their prediction ability.

In a variation of the "those who can't, teach" aphorism, the people with -- for example -- really honed political instincts are actually getting paid to work behind the scenes or are politicians themselves.

To make this analogy a little more clear, he's saying that highly-quoted business "experts" are no more accurate than the rest of us. But if they were accurate, wouldn't they be businessmen, instead of business "experts"? We all know there are successful businessmen.
posted by dhartung at 9:18 PM on December 1, 2005

Sportscaster: "Well folks, when you're right 51% of the time, you're wrong 49% of the time!"
Homer: "Oh! Now you tell me!"

nice article.
posted by mowglisambo at 9:23 PM on December 1, 2005

Metafilter: No one is paying you for your gratuitous opinions about other people.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:28 AM on December 2, 2005

We all know there are successful businessmen.

Sure, but it is often based on the shotgun approach. I saw someone in a talk put it this way: "If you don't try you will fail, if you try you might succeed." Of course that is more about entrepreneurial businesses.

You could look at the performance of mutual fund managers. I don't know anything about it, but I bet a lot of apparent stars have a hard time surviving the law of large numbers...
posted by Chuckles at 11:07 PM on December 2, 2005

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