Saturday, September 26, 2015

No clue

I have not yet read Philip Tetlock's Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction but the buzz suggests a great read so I have pre-ordered from Amazon. In today's WSJ, Jason Zweig offers amazing praise:
Three-quarters of all U.S. stock mutual funds have failed to beat the market over the past decade. Last year, 98% of economists expected interest rates to rise; they fell instead. Most energy analysts didn’t foresee oil’s collapse from $145 a barrel in 2008 to $38 this summer — or its 15% rebound since.

A new book suggests that amateurs might well be less-hapless forecasters than the experts — so long as they go about it the right way.

I think Philip Tetlock’s “Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction,” co-written with the journalist Dan Gardner, is the most important book on decision making since Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast and Slow.”
Humans are understandably eager to identify narratives (in their own lives, in market swings, in the universe, to name a few).  To be sure, most people cheer whenever there is progress by scientists working the "Standard Model" of physics.

It's a little strange. Some forecasting ability is indispensable (it is generally safe to cross the street on a green light) but skepticism is also essential.  Witness Zweig and Tetlock. Hard-to-find wisdom and perspective are essential. What else? Let us not-so-fast "go boldly where no man has gone before." Tetlock and Zweig seemingly say that we usually have no clue where it is that we are going.