Experts tend to be hedgehogs and aren’t good at predicting

From today’s NYT “Learning How to Think“:

“The expert on experts is Philip Tetlock, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley. His 2005 book, “Expert Political Judgment” (New Yorker Review),  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. … The only consistent predictor was fame — and it was an inverse relationship. The more famous experts did worse than unknown ones.”

Idea 1: This result partly explains why crowdsourcing may be more accurate than aggregating expert opinions.

(Project) Idea 2: Since “we trumpet our successes and ignore failures”, we need a system that monitors and evaluates the records of various experts and pundits as a public service

Lesson: “Hedgehogs tend to have a focused worldview, an ideological leaning, strong convictions; foxes are more cautious, more centrist, more likely to adjust their views, more pragmatic, more prone to self-doubt, more inclined to see complexity and nuance. And it turns out that while foxes don’t give great sound-bites, they are far more likely to get things right.”

Comments are closed.