Tag Archives: prediction

Predicting Our Behaviour

Other people are far superior than us at predicting our behaviour as their predictions are based primarily on observation and are not tainted by our psychological narrative.

After reading Timothy Wilson’s Strangers to Ourselves, Nick Southgate–faculty member at London’s The School of Life–discusses this idea that our friends and acquaintances are better than us at predicting our future behaviour .

We like to think of our introspected motivations as predictive facts that will tell us what we will do. However […] our inner reflections discover not facts but a story we tell to ourselves about ourselves. These stories tend to be rose-tinted. We see ourselves as more consistent, admirable and steadfast than we turn out to be. We forget contrary behaviour and previous weakness and focus on being better.

In contrast, other people can only base their predictions on behaviour they have observed. This gives them a factual edge. They know you are always late, don’t stick to diets, drive too fast and tend to forget birthdays. Their judgement is not clouded by resolutions to reform oneself and the self-preserving instinct to not dwell on past misdemeanours.

Consequently, if we want to know what you will do next, it is often better to ask others than it is to ask yourself. Friends and family can know you better than you know yourself. Even strangers, who can see a situation more clearly than you, can make better predictions.

via The Browser

Computing and the Climate

In what appears to be a bit of an advertisement for climateprediction.net–a distributed computing project to test the accuracy of various computer models of climate change–The Economist looks at the impact of computing on the environment; specifically carbon dioxide emissions.

According to a report published by the Climate Group, a think-tank based in London, computers, printers, mobile phones and the widgets that accompany them account for the emission of 830m tonnes of carbon dioxide around the world in 2007. That is about 2% of the estimated total of emissions from human activity. And that is the same as the aviation industry’s contribution. According to the report, about a quarter of the emissions in question are generated by the manufacture of computers and so forth. The rest come from their use.

via More Intelligent Life

The Point of Economists

Following Queen Elizabeth’s question to the economists—Why did no one see the crisis coming?—the Financial Times goes one further asking, What is the point of economists?

If the economics profession could not warn the public about the credit crunch and the recession, what is the profession’s raison d’etre? Did this reflect, as some claim, that economics has gone astray with models that no longer help understand economic reality but rather distort it? Did such models even contribute to the crisis?

Respondents include Samuel Brittan, the FT‘s economic commentator; George Magnus, senior economic adviser for UBS Investment Bank and author of The Age of Aging; and Robert Shrimsley, FT managing editor. This, from an FT editorial:

No economic theory can perform the feats its users have come to expect of it. Economics is unlikely ever to be very good at predicting the future. Too much of what happens in an economy depends on what people expect to happen. Even state-of-the-art forecasts are therefore better guides to the present mood than the future. Though they may also be self-fulfilling prophecies.

Dabbling in paradox limits the use of economics as a practical guide. Today the profession’s best advice must convince politicians and the public to combat a crisis born of insufficient thrift by a recourse to record borrowing. Those who saw danger had no easier task: even reminding people of gravity’s existence is a hard sell when everything is going up.

If predictions of physics-like precision are in demand, they will be supplied. Collective delusion must therefore be blamed as much on the consumers of economics – companies, investors, the media – as its producers.

(Free registration required, I believe.)

Weather Forecasts and Economic Development

The economic impact of meteorological forecasts is wide-ranging and, sometimes, unexpected.

A few of these influences are described briefly before this (tongue-in-cheek, yet still somewhat logical) piece of advice is offered to developing countries:

A study from the mid-1990s […] concluded that every dollar invested in weather forecasting services would save $10 in economic losses.

The World Bank broadly agrees, and is supporting Russian efforts to reinvigorate forecasting systems that have been deteriorating since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The World Bank’s researchers reckon that the benefits of such efforts outweigh the costs by five to one. If those numbers stack up, that suggests an unlikely development tactic for poor countries: hire more weather forecasters.