CULTURE

UNDERSTANDING IS A POOR SUBSTITUTE FOR CONVEXITY (ANTIFRAGILITY)

[12.12.12]

 

The point we will be making here is that logically, neither trial and error nor "chance" and serendipity can be behind the gains in technology and empirical science attributed to them. By definition chance cannot lead to long term gains (it would no longer be chance); trial and error cannot be unconditionally effective: errors cause planes to crash, buildings to collapse, and knowledge to regress.

NASSIM NICHOLAS TALEB, essayist and former mathematical trader, is Distinguished Professor of Risk Engineering at NYU’s Polytechnic Institute. He is the author the international bestseller The Black Swan and the recently published Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder. (US: Random HouseUK: Penguin Press)

Nassim Nicholas Taleb's Edge Bio

How To Win At Forecasting

[12.6.12]

 

The question becomes, is it possible to set up a system for learning from history that's not simply programmed to avoid the most recent mistake in a very simple, mechanistic fashion? Is it possible to set up a system for learning from history that actually learns in our sophisticated way that manages to bring down both false positive and false negatives to some degree? That's a big question mark.

Nobody has really systematically addressed that question until IARPA, the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency, sponsored this particular project, which is very, very ambitious in scale. It's an attempt to address the question of whether you can push political forecasting closer to what philosophers might call an optimal forecasting frontier. That an optimal forecasting frontier is a frontier along which you just can't get any better.

PHILIP E. TETLOCK is Annenberg University Professor at the University of Pennsylvania (School of Arts and Sciences and Wharton School). He is author of Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It? How Can We Know? Philip Tetlock's Edge Bio Page 


[46.50 minutes]

INTRODUCTION
by Daniel Kahneman

Philip Tetlock’s 2005 book Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It? How Can We Know? demonstrated that accurate long-term political forecasting is, to a good approximation, impossible. The work was a landmark in social science, and its importance was quickly recognized and rewarded in two academic disciplines—political science and psychology. Perhaps more significantly, the work was recognized in the intelligence community, which accepted the challenge of investing significant resources in a search for improved accuracy. The work is ongoing, important discoveries are being made, and Tetlock gives us a chance to peek at what is happening.

Tetlock’s current message is far more positive than his earlier dismantling of long-term political forecasting. He focuses on the near term, where accurate prediction is possible to some degree, and he takes on the task of making political predictions as accurate as they can be. He has successes to report. As he points out in his comments, these  successes will be destabilizing to many institutions, in ways both multiple and profound. With some confidence, we can predict that another landmark of applied social science will soon be reached.

Daniel Kahneman, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economics, 2002, is the Eugene Higgins Professor of Psychology Emeritus at Princeton University and author of Thinking Fast and Slow.


HOW TO WIN AT FORECASTING
A Conversation with Philip Tetlock 

There's a question that I've been asking myself for nearly three decades now and trying to get a research handle on, and that is why is the quality of public debate so low and why is it that the quality often seems to deteriorate the more important the stakes get?

About 30 years ago I started my work on expert political judgment. It was the height of the Cold War. There was a ferocious debate about how to deal with the Soviet Union. There was a liberal view; there was a conservative view. Each position led to certain predictions about how the Soviets would be likely to react to various policy initiatives.

HOW TO WIN AT FORECASTING

Topic: 

  • CULTURE
http://vimeo.com/81889281

The question becomes, is it possible to set up a system for learning from history that's not simply programmed to avoid the most recent mistake in a very simple, mechanistic fashion? Is it possible to set up a system for learning from history that actually learns in our sophisticated way that manages to bring down both false positive and false negatives to some degree? That's a big question mark.

WE CAN'T DO EVIDENCE-BASED POLICY WITHOUT EVIDENCE

[11.7.12]

Make it easy, make it personal, make it salient. It's not rocket science, it's somewhere between common sense and psychology 101, and that goes a long way. 

RICHARD H. THALER is the father of behavioral economics the study of how thinking and emotions affect individual economic decisions and the behavior of markets. Thaler is Director of the Center for Decision Research at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business. He is coauthor (with Cass Sunstein) of Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness.

Richard H Thaler's Edge Bio Page


[57 minutes]


WE CAN'T DO EVIDENCE-BASED POLICY WITHOUT EVIDENCE 

The idea I'm most excited about, and have been for the last few years, is an idea that doesn't sound exciting. It sounds boring, geeky, unimportant, technical, and I think it's the opposite of all of those things. It involves big data, it involves personal data, and I think it has the opportunity to change the way people shop, to create entire new industries, and to change the way the government regulates business. Here's the idea in a nutshell: let me give you two examples of, first of all, a way the government can generate jobs and businesses simply by releasing data.

THE WORLD THROUGH INSTITUTIONAL LENSES

Topic: 

  • CULTURE
http://vimeo.com/80815974

"The issue is that when you look at the world from these sorts of institutional lenses, identifying problems becomes relatively easy. Solving them becomes very hard. It's no mystery how you get economic growth. You need to provide opportunities and incentives. But how do you make that political equilibrium? How do you make it so that everybody in society actually agrees and abides by a system that provides those incentives and opportunities even if it's not in their short-term interests?

THE WORLD THROUGH INSTITUTIONAL LENSES

[9.12.12]

The issue is that when you look at the world from these sorts of institutional lenses, identifying problems becomes relatively easy. Solving them becomes very hard. It's no mystery how you get economic growth. You need to provide opportunities and incentives. But how do you make that political equilibrium? How do you make it so that everybody in society actually agrees and abides by a system that provides those incentives and opportunities even if it's not in their short-term interests? Those are the real challenges and that's exactly the sorts of issues we're seeing in Europe, it's the sorts of issues we're seeing in the United States, it's the sorts of issues we're seeing in Turkey. The problems are reasonably easy to identify. Developing solutions to them is hard because you cannot develop the solutions from the outside. It's not an engineering problem. At the end of the day you really need the grassroots solution to it. You really need people themselves to start taking part in the political process because any solution you impose from above is not going to stick unless it has the support of the people, unless the people themselves are the ones who push for it, who demand it, and who implement that solution.
 

DARON ACEMOGLU is the Killian Professor of Economics at MIT. In 2005 he received the John Bates Clark Medal awarded to economists under forty judged to have made the most significant contribution to economic thought and knowledge. He is the author of Why Nations Fail.

Daron Acemoglu's Edge Bio Page



[1 hour 4 minutes]


HOW CULTURE DROVE HUMAN EVOLUTION

[9.4.12]

Part of my program of research is to convince people that they should stop distinguishing cultural and biological evolution as separate in that way. We want to think of it all as biological evolution. 

JOSEPH HENRICH is an anthropologist and Professor of Psychology and Economics. He is the Canada Research Chair in Culture, Cognition and Coevolution at University of British Columbia.

Joseph Henrich's Edge Bio Page


[39:00 minutes]

[ED. NOTE: This conversation with Joe Henrich was conducted in Vancouver for Edge by  Jennifer Jacquet.]


HOW CULTURE DROVE HUMAN EVOLUTION

[JOSEPH HENRICH:] The main questions I've been asking myself over the last couple years are broadly about how culture drove human evolution. Think back to when humans first got the capacity for cumulative cultural evolution—and by this I mean the ability for ideas to accumulate over generations, to get an increasingly complex tool starting from something simple. One generation adds a few things to it, the next generation adds a few more things, and the next generation, until it's so complex that no one in the first generation could have invented it. This was a really important line in human evolution, and we've begun to pursue this idea called the cultural brain hypothesis—this is the idea that the real driver in the expansion of human brains was this growing cumulative body of cultural information, so that what our brains increasingly got good at was the ability to acquire information, store, process and retransmit this non genetic body of information.


We've begun to pursue this idea called the cultural brain hypothesis—the idea that the real driver in the expansion of human brains was this growing cumulative body of cultural information.


WHAT IS VALUE? WHAT IS MONEY?

Topic: 

  • CULTURE
http://vimeo.com/80815481

"We have always had this tension of understanding the world, at small spatial scales or individual scales, and large macro scales. In the past when we looked at macro scales, at least when it comes to many social phenomena, we aggregated everything. Our idea of macro is, by an accident of history, a synonym of aggregate, a mass in which everything is added up and in which individuality is lost. What data at high spatial resolution, temporal resolution and typological resolution is allowing us to do, is to see the big picture without losing the individuality inside it."

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