Forecasting tournaments, epistemic humility and attitude depolarization

People often express political opinions in starkly dichotomous terms, such as “Trump will either trigger a ruinous trade war or save U.S. factory workers from disaster.” This mode of communication promotes polarization into ideological in-groups and out-groups. We explore the power of an emerging methodology, forecasting tournaments, to encourage clashing factions to do something odd: to translate their beliefs into nuanced probability judgments and track accuracy over time and questions. In theory, tournaments advance the goals of “deliberative democracy” by incentivizing people to be flexible belief updaters whose views converge in response to facts, thus depolarizing unnecessarily polarized debates. We examine the hypothesis that, in the process of thinking critically about their beliefs, tournament participants become more moderate in their own political attitudes and those they attribute to the other side. We view tournaments as belonging to a broader class of psychological inductions that increase epistemic humility and that include asking people to explore alternative perspectives, probing the depth of their cause-effect understanding and holding them accountable to audiences with difficult-to-guess views.

That is a new paper from Barbara Mellers, Philip Tetlock, and Hal R. Arkes, via the excellent Kevin Lewis and Michelle Dawson.  One very general implication is that there are mental, writing, and practical exercises that really can improve your habits of thought.


Do or die!

These look like well built titles for The Big Bang Theory episodes...

Let's think for a moment. Authors make a suggestion that people, currently polarized should take part in non-partisan non-polarised all encompassing tournaments, that in a factual objective way judge their beliefs and that will help those depolarize the whole political spectrum by "thinking critically about their beliefs".

Is it me, or does it sound like a complete insane bollocks? Does it even need any criticism? Every word in a previous statement is impossible. You can't have those people interact logically and respectfully. You can'y have a non-partisan judgement, you can't have factual objective way to judge anything, even statistics can lie or misrepresent certain facts, you sure as hell won't get any self-criticism out of that. People who are interested in other party's view will find it themselves without any tournament system. People who believe the other party are less than human will not even sit at the same table.

The authors simply point that there are practices that allow people to "depolarize". Whether or not people can or want to follow those practices is up to them, Some people can do it, Others can't.

I can talk for myself: I participated in one of those tournaments and it was really cool. (I was rubbish, by the way)

Moreover, the political factions are using polarization to gain and consolidate power. It has nothing to do with prediction or accuracy.

It's a variation of the debate-via-betting-markets idea that Alex (and Tyler too?) have advocated.

Except: do people have to pay an entry fee for these proposed tournaments? If not, then people can make dumb crazy bets based on their prejudices without penalty (except for the opportunity cost of a reduced chance of winning). To be truly effective, players would have to have some "skin in the game" as they do with a bet. But a lot of people would then probably opt not to play in the tournament at all.

It begins with a claim I've never seen borne out. In reality, people tend to simply state their own belief about the most likely situation in the world. Trump will either be good or bad! Who's said that?

Clever: using a futures market to increase the accuracy of current judgments. Of course, that's what Sumner wants the Fed to do: instead of inflation targeting, target NGDP coupled with a futures market for NGDP in which the Fed would commit to buy bonds (if the futures markets pegs NGDP below target) or sell bonds (if the futures market pegs NGDP above target). The futures market together with the commitment to buy or sell certainly would focus the mind of the Fed governors. [The idea is that the Fed would never have to buy or sell because the Fed would implement expansionary or contractionary policies that would keep the peg on target.] How this would work to reduce political polarization depends on what is being forecast in the forecasting tournament. For example, will the forecast be whether Trump continues with his angry rhetoric about black and brown people and immigrants or will the forecast be whether Trump delivers on his campaign promise for a tax cut for low and middle income earners and a tax increase for high income earners. The latter would certainly focus the mind of many Trump followers, while the former is just common knowledge.

You should understand that Scott Sumners NGDP futures market is so flawed it will never see widespread adoption, and if the Fed adopted it as a guide, the market would quickly lead to ruinous monetary policy.

There is no contract structure which 'works' for NGDP futures. They all have fatal flaws.

> One very general implication is that there are mental, writing, and practical exercises that really can improve your habits of thought.

Oh yeah. Free-write journaling or writing to made up prompts have been really good for me when I've needed to be more focused and use my time better

Excellent authors, but..

I would approach this another way. I would say that since the final outcome of this trade conflict is completely unknown, a wildcard, focus on something else that can be plainly seen.

In this case the question is "is the US decision-making process good?" Or "Is it driven by experts in the field with deep knowledge of past cycles?"

I mean to be brutal about it, to accept that crazy stuff is happening, and then to analyze it with our "imptoved skills" is not really contributing to better outcomes.

Perhaps it is literally overthinking.

By the way, I am aware that there is a cognitive error (with a real name which I forget), which says that people sometimes choose "a simpler problem" which is not actually a viable substitute.

Perhaps I am suggesting there is a flip side to that, that we sometimes look for too complex a problem when the simple one stares us in the face.

Or wanna bet?

Can or does anything "increase epistemic humility" quite like a principled and thoroughgoing anti-rationalism? (Reasons exist for severely doubting the epistemic claims of self-satisfied rationalists.)

(I do pose "anti-rationalism" here not in the fear-mongering, anti-intellectual sense advertised by horrified NYT contributors but in the critical, anti-modern epistemic tradition of Pascal, Swift, Vico, Shestov, et al., maybe with a little help from Feyerabend.)

Reasonable skepticism regarding rationalist assertions and pretenses properly undermines "rational faith" ("rational lunacy", if Vico's translators can be trusted: Vico's contemporary Swift implied the same thing in his satire of Houyhnhnms and Yahoos) in the advertised soteriological prowess of sciences and maths--those "rational" disciplines that have gifted us with Technogenic Climate Change (a conspicuous failure of applied science and applied technology, their stated commitments to observation and measurement of repeatable phenomena notwithstanding), among other modern rational lunacies.

Attacking climate change is an excellent boat anchor to any otherwise rational argument.

I do not "attack climate change" above so much as I prefer to properly name a phenomenon that science and technology apologists prefer being coy about--I can appreciate that they want to continue to deny institutional responsibility for foisting it upon unsuspecting (non-rational) humanity.

"Rationalism", "rationality", and "rational argument" are NOT necessarily constituent to the "arguments" that science and tech apologists offer to deny their institutional responsibility for many of the modern horrors they have gratuitously unleashed (that is: rationalist anthropological premises are inaccurate and faulty or deficient, not commensurate to the "reality" that rationalists are commonly happy to proclaim [about themselves and their intellectual prowess]: Swift's incisive anthropological formula claims a greater accuracy, arguably--man is NOT the "rational animal" that Augustine claimed, man is an animal ONLY CAPABLE of reason and never on any full-time bases, no matter what lies AI can conjure for us henceforth).

Switch-sides debating debated, the lost convictions argument ("Defending Switch-Sides Contest Debating: Responses to the Hicks & Greene Evidence", from 2010), … (Just because it's a blog about high school debate issues doesn't mean it isn't brilliant!)

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