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This is one of the most interesting presentations I’ve ever found online. That is has only 17,000 views is a disgrace, so go watch it now!
Why Foxes Are Better Forecasters Than Hedgehogs – Phillip Tetlock
“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”
Reaching The Stars Is Easy Compared to Some Things, from Philhellenes. Very nicely put together. HT Alexander Kruel.
“Since, in the long run, every planetary society will be endangered by impacts from space, every surviving civilization is obliged to become spacefaring — not because of exploratory or romantic zeal, but for the most practical reason imaginable: staying alive.” – Carl Sagan
Exciting breaking news from the LHC!
Unsurprisingly given our psychology’s origin in evolution, humans spend most of their time thinking about everyday concerns: how to get food, stay clean, find friends, get laid, etc. Most of our thinking and talking about far away issues we don’t have much control over is just for signalling nice things about ourselves. There is little reason to direct those efforts towards the things which really matter most as our views change nothing; instead it’s safest to go along with the idealistic fashions of our social group at any point in time.
Unless you’re really smart. In that case, you can go out and show just how brilliantly smart you are by forwarding strange positions no mediocre wit would feel smart enough to defend. Nick Bostrum, busy signalling his superior smarts with an unusual but consistent worldview, swims against the current of his day and proposes these fairly unusual answers to the most serious problems humanity faces: Death, Existential Risk, Suffering and Mediocre Experiences. If you knew you were going to (have the chance to) be born again in the year 3000, I think these are just the issues you would want us to start dealing with seriously now, not most of the nonsense we ostensibly do to help the future. Or you could just save some money (PPT) for them instead, if you care.
Lucky we have some really smart people: to show us how smart they are, sometimes they go out and say really outlandish but important things.
HT Talia Katz.