Prediction difficulty seems to be rising

That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column, here is one excerpt:

My main prediction for 2020, if it can be called a prediction, is trend exhaustion: For the first time in a long while, several important trends have come to an end.

What do I mean by that? Trends ebb and flow, of course, but at any given moment many of them embody one of two distinct states: momentum, or reversion to the mean. The first is a continuation of past progress, either upward or downward. The second is a movement back toward “normal,” however that may be defined.

The relevant list of exhausted trends includes the U.S. labor market, Chinese economic growth, the growth of populist parties, and numerous others.  And:

One implication is that the coming year may hold an especially large number of surprises. Alternatively, rational people (and readers of Philip Tetlock, who has studied the difficulty of forecasting the future) might discard their hubris and not be very surprised at all.

Recommended.

Comments

Straussian. Trump makes prediction of the future perilous, just as our future under the stable genius is perilous.

Stocks are up and oil is headed back down after a brief spike. Our future looks fine.

The POTUS, fortunately, has very little impact on our future (or present for that matter). A key fact most people seem to miss.

Stocks are not the economy (@Skeptical). Not only do most stock markets fail to predict recessions, most stock markets rally while the real economy is still in recession. And historically some of the best stock markets are relatively poor economies (South Africa) and vice versa (Japan, at least since 1990). Stocks != the economy.

Respond

Add Comment

POTUS has very little impact? Trump perhaps declares war after Iranian missile hits 18th hole at Aberdeen.

The trick to predicting the future is first to be obscure and wishy washy enough that almost any result could be supported by what you said. And second to use the opportunity to be political and show your never Trumper creds so that your friends and co-workers will like you.

Respond

Add Comment

The POTUS has very little effect on what actually impacts our lives, yes. The fact that this is remotely controversial shows how far down the rabbit hole the hardcore partisans are.

Protip: the POTUS cannot declare war.

Someone should tell the Iranians and the Iraqis. They might not understand this distinction.

The Iraq war was passed by Congress. I think Pelosi voted for it. Bush didn't 'declare war' and got to war by himself.

Embassies are considered inviolable under International Law, and an attack against an embassy is an act of war. The President can under US law take action, but is required within a certain time limit to request authorization from Congress. When Iran attacked the US Embassy in Iraq, it was a hostile act and they could reasonably expect a response.

It seems there is lots of noise, but there isn't continuing fighting between the Iranians and the US.

Remember Obama knocked over Ghadaffi without Congressional approval with the end result that black slave markets were re-established in North Africa. Trump has a long way down to match that record.

Derek,

Actually Obama did not "knock off" Gaddafi. You have forgotten that he "led from behind." Out in front were UK, France, and the Arab League, then under strong influence of neighboring Egypt. Gaddafi was going down even if the US had stayed out. You are not the only one who forgets this. But then you probably got all excited by all the endless Congressional hearings about Benghazi that went on and on only to find a big fat nothing beyond that Congress cut the embasssy security budget.

Well there were the 29 cables asking for help that were ignored.

And help was not available because the budget had been cut. As it was, the facility in Benghazi was super low priority. It was not even a consulate, and they are lower priority than embassies, which obviously should have the highest priority. The irony was that Amb. Stevens partly went and stayed in this known-to-be unsecured facility partly as an effort to get it upgraded to consulate status.

Do you actually know what went down at and around Benghazi? If most of your info comes from Fox, you are probably seriously delusional on the matter.

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

What is truly amusing about that situation was that Europe was terrified of a flood of refugees showing up from North Africa. That was the justification for getting rid of Ghadaffi. Another blitheringly stupid mistake, and we are a ways from the end of it's effects.

Didn't Obama and Clinton blame an obscure film maker for Benghazi? Politicians, the current crop included are a bunch of slippery craven jackasses, but that stunt was pretty awful. As I said above, Trump has a long ways down to match the stupidity of the Obama foreign policy.

Trump's dopey foreign policy is even worse than Bush and that's without starting dumb wars.

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

Technically the vote was not on war, it was on use of force to back UN resolutions and UN inspections.

GWB then took that vote, withdrew those inspectors, and engaged in full regime change, and the rest of the story you should know.

It's actually a very good demonstration that the character and performance of individual US presidents does matter. For decades after the fact.

Where would we be if GWB had been good to his word, and simply eliminated the "threat" of WMDs?

The WMDs that were never there?

The resolution "supported" and "encouraged" diplomatic efforts by President George W. Bush to "strictly enforce through the U.N. Security Council all relevant Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq" and "obtain prompt and decisive action by the Security Council to ensure that Iraq abandons its strategy of delay, evasion, and noncompliance and promptly and strictly complies with all relevant Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq."

From 2003 - 2010 Congress appropriated money to fight the war.

I'm not defending either. There was bipartisan and public support for the war. Bush won in 2004 on the premise that he would change strategy to win with the surge.

By 2008 the support had shrunk, and Obama won partly because he promised to get out of Iraq, which he did.

There are lots of things to criticize how the war was conducted, and the justifications to start it, but let's not tell a different story.

Ultimately what has changed the strategic situation is that the US is no longer dependent on Middle East energy imports. What interests are there to defend? There was a huge fuss when Trump backed away from Syria. I suspect the only strategic interest is that it probably isn't a good idea for Saudi Arabia and Iran to both have nukes pointing at each other.

I've been watching the fights within Labour in the UK, and one of the thorns that still irritate is Blair and Iraq. Essentially any moderating influences within the party from the Blairites is openly rejected, which probably had much to do with the drubbing they got.

Trump also ran against the Republican connection to Iraq as well. The entrenched opposition from within the Republican's comes from those who vigorously supported the war and similar military adventures.

What happens next is beyond me. I think I can safely predict that the Middle East will be unpredictable.

The only Labour leader who won an election in last 50 years is utterly despised and hated within his own party.
I guess that means that Labour transforms itself into a kind of SNP for the lefty-progressive London suburbs.

It’s an interesting problem, if they remain a protest party then Labour never really have to confront the contradictions in their politics, from say soft left socialist welfare through Feminism and support for LGBT issues, to hard core Islamic anti semitic conservatives. It is probably better for them to be an eternally complaining opposition.

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

The secondary votes don't matter much in terms of how we got here.

We got here because of the invasion.

Invasion specifically was never supposed to be the goal. Disarmament was.

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

The WMD's were not found because European nations that were complicit in giving Iraq trhe infrastructure to build them spent almost two years delaying the invasion so Iraq could truck all the evidence to the Baqqa valley.

Doubtful, but even if true don't you see it for what it means?

Iraq would be disarmed.

Past evidence in Baqqa Valley or anywhere else would not matter.

The goal was achieved at that point.

Doesn't it bother you that there is zero interest in what the Iraqi's moved there in literally thousands of truckloads? Where is the press in discovering this info? Why would you believe the propaganda when you can see with your own eyes that they cover up the facts?

Sorry, Anon, but this is fantasyland conspiracy trheory bs. Get lost. Saddam got rid of hid WMDs. His mistake was continuing to make it look like he might have some, reportedly to keep Iran in line, iroronically.

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

By the way, that episode shows another dangerous precedent.

When we learned that Saddam had dismantled his WMDs some time earlier, people said "why was he denying inspections? If he had allowed it, he'd still be alive and in power!"

So, maybe don't push possibly irrational regimes into a corner, and expect them to behave rationally!

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

what does straussian mean?

I predict you will not understand this.

From Wiki: Straussian: "to denote the research methods, common concepts, theoretical presuppositions, central questions, and pedagogic style characteristic of the large number of conservatives who have been influenced by the thought and teaching of Leo Strauss."

I always assumed he was referring to the music composer, Richard Strauss.

No, i understood the reference, but i don't undertand how everyone uses it here.

My Straussian reading of Bill's comment is that he feels intellectuals should assume everyone is stupid.

A Straussian reading is simply one of messages within a message. Subtext. It leads to a lot of false positives: https://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2015/07/taylor-swift-straussian.html

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

“The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable.“

==> John Kenneth Galbraith

Respond

Add Comment

> U.S. labor market, Chinese economic growth, the growth of populist parties

Same thing.

Respond

Add Comment

"Prediction difficulty seems to be rising"
Efficient Markets expects methods of "predictions" to produce more random results over time. The headline implies the world is progressing normally.

"Efficient markets" are tiny subset of "the World"

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

I kinda wonder when this was written. I sense that it might have been filed some time last week, which would partially explain the lack of focus on what we know now about "unpredictable narratives."

Naturally, I think more of us should have considered the possibility of "unpredictable narratives" (starting around 2016) and worked to mitigate them.

You can invest in oil futures. Assuming you truly believe your narrative.

If I said I had enough money, and was more worried about the safety of other people .. could you even relate?

(Not that we should think this one risk is all we are in for. It is a risk, and a confirmation of a pattern. A pattern that should have been apparent from 2016.)

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

We have been uttery defeated and humiliated.

Tyler's premise is based on the assumption that people are rational...all the evidence suggests otherwise...we are all APES...apprehensive, pattern seeking, emotional story tellers...everything's connected moving faster and falling apart...second law of thermodynamics..human nature is a closed system

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

Any sentient person knows what's ahead: Iranian sympathizers will engage in increasingly provocative terrorist actions, which ultimately will cause Trump to order either a nuclear attack of Iran or a wide-scale bombing of Iran, producing hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths. In either case, if the military refuses to comply with the president's order, that will result in a constitutional crisis, or if the military complies with the president's order, it will be the end of the world as we have known it. The complacent class, indeed.

I've been out today, and don't know if any remedy has been made, but a terrible shocking twist was that the President spent this morning threatening *Iraq* on Twitter.

No filters, no restraint, no adults in the room.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-51003159

Well, apparently Iraq has quite a large pro-Iran Shiite population. Somewhat analogous to the blacks vs whites confrontation in the USA back in the day (and maybe in certain sectors even now).

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

Something most US commentators keep forgetting is that this strike did not just kill Solemaini, who was apparently planning to meet with the Iraqi PM to deliver a peace proposal for Saudi Arabia (not a shred of evidence of any "imminent" plans to attack US people as claimed by Pompeo and Trump), but an Iraqi military commander was also killed. The Iraqis are supposed to just bend over and ignore this?

He was not an "Iraqi military commander."

Get real. The Kata'ib Hezbollah is not the Iraqi military, it's an IRGC controlled terror group. Lest we forget the mass murder of Sunni tribesmen. And don't forget he bombed the US and French embassies in the 80s.

+1

Respond

Add Comment

Skeptical,

Sorry, he was alsso an actual senior military officer in the Iraqi military as well as being commander of that Iran-allied militia. We have been told that this was a "clean hit" because there were supposedly "no Iraqis" in it. But there was an important one. The militia he commanded may be Iran-allied, but it is also allied to the Fath party that has 48 seats in the Iraqi parliament. This is an important reason the Iraqi parliament has voted to expel US troops. But this point is not being reported or discussed in the US media. This was a massively incompetent hit, although people who get their news from Fox have no idea about this..

BTW, "Skeptical," who is that you are charging with bombing US and French embassies in the 80s and where? Solemaini or al-Murshandi? Just how out of it are you?

The assassinated Iraqi military officer who also commanded the Iraqi PMF is al-Munahdis. I see both Anon7 and Skeptical are quiet on this, having been caught spouting fake news.

Yes, it is important, and it is very telling that US media is saying almost zero about him getting offed. Somebody needs to grill that lying scumbag warmonger Pompeo about this.

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

As of this morning, Iraqi sources mentioned by name only Solemaini and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis as being killed in the US drone attack. Also according to those sources seven others died. No names are given for these people, they are "collateral damage". It was so important to kill the Al Quds leader that the death of others could be accepted. We'll probably never know so much as the names of these unfortunates or what their place may have been in the geopolitical maelstrom.Exactly how many collateral deaths would be the upper limit in such an adventure? If seven is OK, how about 25 or 75? The evil John Wilkes Booth, Charles J. Guiteau and Leon Czolgosz each killed only the man that was their target.

+1

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

There are too few honest brokers in the prediction game. Instead of true predictions, we just get bias and wish projection. Tech predictions are made by people either with skin in the game or who learned their craft from slideware instead of actual practice.

BTW, I predict another AI winter, and in the near future.

Respond

Add Comment

I predict that most predictions will prove wrong.

They get hedged as soon as they are announced, it is a losing game.

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

Chances of this year being among the top 10 years ever for global average temperature are still very high. Same for more Weinsteinesque cases, especially if you consider that many countries have yet to get rolling on accountability.

"Chances of this year being among the top 10 years ever for global average temperature are still very high" The chances are about nil: we are still nowhere near the temperatures of the holocene optimum (as inferred from proxies).

“Since we have accurate and modern records” is an unstated proviso here. Or perhaps just “Since 1900”? The larger point stands.

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

Tyler says his piece is "recommended." I am waiting for him to post about one of his Bloomberg columns and then say that it is "not recommended" :-).

Barkley, I think you just did a "self-recommended" with that comment.

I would recommend your comment, however.

This is not to recommend my reply, however, unless you want to.

This looks like an obvious quid quo pro, so as to avoid having my military aid cut off, I recommend your comment, :-).

I am not worried about your disclosure of, or solicitation of, my disguised offer, as most of the readers, just as most of the Senate, would not see a quid pro quo unless it involved a written contract accompanied by an envelope with money in it. Or, at least that's what Senator Graham tells me.

It will just be a secret between the both of us unless Bolton squeals.

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

Poised on a tipping point?

Respond

Add Comment

The reason that predictions

Are getting more difficult

Is because we presume people are rational

And

They are getting more stupid.

Respond

Add Comment

Tyler writes: "My main prediction for 2020, ... readers of Philip Tetlock, who has studied the difficulty of forecasting the future) might discard their hubris and not be very surprised at all." Thus Tyler is saying he should discard his hubris and not be surprised if his prediction turns out to be false.

Thereby proving correct his prediction that his prediction would be false, vindicating his hubris.

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

"One implication is that the coming year may hold an especially large number of surprises."
Out on a limb there...

Respond

Add Comment

These items seem to pose two new trends for Tyler in 2020:

"The first is a continuation of past progress, either upward or downward." (Is this the first time Tyler has conceded that "progress" can indeed course "downward"? Would love to see emerging markets in "downward progress" for some sectors [in "progress studies" and "predictions markets", e. g.].)

"The second is a movement back toward 'normal,' however that may be defined." (A concession that seems to concede that trends illustrating progress [and perhaps "progress" itself?] can actually move backwards.)

In spite of the fact that many/most partisans of Progress behave as if we live already in an irrevocable future, perhaps those among us with anachronistic, atavistic, and archaic souls may yet have a chance.

Such there are good people on both sides.

Respond

Add Comment

Edward Burke, you don't seem to understand that progress has more than one meaning: a change in position or a change for the better. If the phrase is "progress, either upward or downward" then obviously the former meaning is intended so you should have nothing to carp about.

This is all common sense.

While I concede that your reading might have constituted "common sense" once upon a time, it hardly appears as the reading commonly offered across recent decades to this very today, appearing even in some of Tyler's and Alex's posts here at MR.

Most usage I encounter treats the path of Progress exclusively as "onward and upward", with steady gains in altitude and ascent and with no precipitous drops, falls, or plummets--which is why I just capitalized the term, as I did in my closing paragraph above.

In days, too, when social and political progressives dub Progress as a secular equivalent to discarded "Providence", "Progress" (with whatever teleological aim ascribed to it) seems even more to my provincial ears as an intellectual cheat of a high magnitude, an avatar of a secular religion serving at the pleasure of the chief god in such a modern henotheistic scheme, Holy Science.

Granted, my readings of Feyerabend could be leading me astray.

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

Uncertainty is hugely overrated these days.

Nothing major happened in the last 10 years and there are no wars. And nothing significant will happen in the next 10 years, not least because population is hooked on internet social networks.

But journalists still need to bring food on the table.

Respond

Add Comment

Growth and inception of populism! You mean incumbents defending their interest is a novelty? Demagogy too?

Stick to analysing shorter range problems.

Respond

Add Comment

One trend that needs to be exhausted is the #MeToo movement. At this point no sane man or boy should ever be alone with a female. If this is a trend, and it seems to be one, there will be enormous negative effects on education, business, basically every aspect of day to day life. It's quite insane.

Ol' chuck is actually Mike Pence ..

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment

Paging Taleb v Straussian. Not sure where to go here. Tyler as unpredictable as Trump?

Respond

Add Comment

Shorter Tyler: "I was humiliated in 2016, and I'm still furious about it. But now that this upcoming year is effectively double-or-nothing on my own sense of self-esteem, the implications of it happening again are too horrifying to contemplate."

Respond

Add Comment

This "trend exhaustion" could be another term for "critical slowing down".

I recently read that physical scientists who model complex systems like to look for "critical slowing down" as a sign of upcoming phase transition (i.e. very large changes that are qualitative rather than quantitative in nature).
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phase_transition#Critical_slowing_down_and_other_phenomena

So maybe a phase transition (war, recession, regime change, whatever) is looming.

OTOH, systems that include human behavior are more complex and difficult to predict than natural systems. I haven't seen the natural scientists who've been trying to apply their models and insights to economies (e.g. the Santa Fe Institute) come up with better predictions. Better models and theories, sometimes yes. But have they come up with better predictions?

Respond

Add Comment

Respond

Add Comment