Why Foxes Are Better Forecasters Than Hedgehogs from The Long Now Foundation on FORA.tv


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.

He observes the same thing is going on with expert opinion about the Iraq War. Instead of saying, “I evidently had the wrong theory,” the experts declare, “It almost went my way,” or “It was the right mistake to make under the circumstances,” or “I’ll be proved right later,” or “The evilness of the enemy is still the main event here.”

Tetlock’s summary: “Partisans across the opinion spectrum are vulnerable to occasional bouts of ideologically induced insanity.” He determined to figure out a way to keep score on expert political forecasts, even though it is a notoriously subjective domain (compared to, say, medical advice), and “there are no control groups in history.” – The Long Now Foundation

Category: Really, really bad calls, Video

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3 Responses to “Why Foxes Are Better Forecasters Than Hedgehogs”

  1. ilsm says:

    Profit motive.

    War has always made money for “suppliers”.

    Theories (rumors) of war with expensive toys always make money for a few.

    When general/expert has an idea that makes money, no matter how many times the idea does not work, the general always get another chance for suppliers to make money.

    See nation building, counterinsurgency, strategic bombing, F-22, F-35, MV 22, aircraft carriers monopolies……..

    When a failure makes money it is never terminated.

    To argue against the waste in war profiterring is unpatriotic and dangerous to the franchise of perpetual war.

    Not insane; the work of propaganda, and controlling the dialog.

  2. alnval says:

    Marvelous. Thank you. Will watch it again. Twenty percent of us are Hedgehogs and 20 percent are Foxes. Another case of most of us being part of the great unwashed? The question of training in thinking was left hanging probably for good reason. Tetlock also reminded us that having a point of view makes it more difficult to change one’s mind. Not an unreasonable finding. We’re stuck again with how to get folks to incorporate reality (data) into their thinking. Maybe that’s what history’s wars and revolutions are all about. Fascinating implications though for investors. Thank you again.

  3. alnval says:

    We should note that Tetlock developed this material while at the University of California, Berkeley and that since 2011 he’s been Leonore Annenberg Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania.