Wednesday, December 14, 2005

What is an expert ?.

Someone who studies more and more about less and less until they know everything about nothing.

Everyday in the MSM we hear sidebar or proof of concept from the "expert".Normally an academic who comments without providing testable components of their argument,without providing the contrarian arguemnt which they normally would be expected to disprove in their arguments.

This is especially in the case of science or economics where the viewpoint is normally from a personal or fiscal perspective and where the msm does not understand the factual discourse.

"No quantity of experiments can ever prove me right,said Albert Eienstein but one experiment can prove me wrong"

In his famous analogy Karl Popper said" if all swan are white ,we should not be looking for great quantities of white swan,we should instead look for a single black one"

Marginal revolution has a review of an exciting book by Philip Tetlock Expert Political Judgement. matter how unequivocal the evidence that experts cannot outpredict chimps or extrapolation algorithms, we should expect business to unfold as usual: pundits will continue to warn us on talk shows and op-ed pages of what will happen unless we dutifully follow their policy prescriptions. We -- the consumers of expert pronouncements -- are in thrall to experts for the same reasons that our ancestors submitted to shamans and oracles: our uncontrollable need to believe in a controllable world and our flawed understanding of the laws of chance. We lack the willpower and good sense to resist the snake oil products on offer. Who wants to believe that, on the big questions, we could do as well tossing a coin as by consulting accredited experts?

Tetlock draws on both Data from 82361 observations to provide a comparison by Tolstoys foxes and hedgehogs.

The New Yorker also provides a good critque of the book with the following comments.

Tetlock got a statistical handle on his task by putting most of the forecasting questions into a “three possible futures” form. The respondents were asked to rate the probability of three alternative outcomes: the persistence of the status quo, more of something (political freedom, economic growth), or less of something (repression, recession). And he measured his experts on two dimensions: how good they were at guessing probabilities (did all the things they said had an x per cent chance of happening happen x per cent of the time?), and how accurate they were at predicting specific outcomes. The results were unimpressive. On the first scale, the experts performed worse than they would have if they had simply assigned an equal probability to all three outcomes—if they had given each possible future a thirty-three-per-cent chance of occurring. Human beings who spend their lives studying the state of the world, in other words, are poorer forecasters than dart-throwing monkeys, who would have distributed their picks evenly over the three choices.


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