Kristof Finally Notices

1 comment March 26th, 2009at 11:27am Posted by Eli

Welcome to the party, Nic.

The expert on experts is Philip Tetlock, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley. His 2005 book, “Expert Political Judgment,” is based on two decades of tracking some 82,000 predictions by 284 experts. The experts’ forecasts were tracked both on the subjects of their specialties and on subjects that they knew little about.

The result? The predictions of experts were, on average, only a tiny bit better than random guesses — the equivalent of a chimpanzee throwing darts at a board.

“It made virtually no difference whether participants had doctorates, whether they were economists, political scientists, journalists or historians, whether they had policy experience or access to classified information, or whether they had logged many or few years of experience,” Mr. Tetlock wrote.

Indeed, the only consistent predictor was fame — and it was an inverse relationship. The more famous experts did worse than unknown ones. That had to do with a fault in the media. Talent bookers for television shows and reporters tended to call up experts who provided strong, coherent points of view, who saw things in blacks and whites. People who shouted — like, yes, Jim Cramer!

(…)

The marketplace of ideas for now doesn’t clear out bad pundits and bad ideas partly because there’s no accountability. We trumpet our successes and ignore failures — or else attempt to explain that the failure doesn’t count because the situation changed or that we were basically right but the timing was off.

(…)

So what about a system to evaluate us prognosticators? Professor Tetlock suggests that various foundations might try to create a “trans-ideological Consumer Reports for punditry,” monitoring and evaluating the records of various experts and pundits as a public service. I agree: Hold us accountable!

Ah, accountability.  So very valuable, and yet so hard to find.  And its absence screws up everything.  If we had a culture of accountability instead of a culture of impunity, we wouldn’t be in Iraq, we wouldn’t be illegally spying or rendering or torturing, and our economy wouldn’t be in the toilet.

We’ve turned into a country-sized version of the guy who plays Xbox and watches TV all day and eats nothing but ice cream and junk food, and just can’t understand why he can’t get a date or walk around the block without wheezing.

Entry Filed under: Media

1 Comment

  • 1. Ol'Froth  |  March 26th, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    We trumpet our successes and ignore failures — or else attempt to explain that the failure doesn’t count because the situation changed or that we were basically right but the timing was off.

    So basically, the punditcracy are the smae as psychics…nothing but frauds.


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