The Psychic Octopus – Modeling Magical Oracles of Irrational Processes, A Comment on Pielke and Silver

Wygart has a comment in over at Pielke the Younger’s blog on his recent post Parlor Games and Predicting Presidential Elections in which he discusses an article by Nate Silver at the NY Times on the ability of political scientists to predict elections based upon measurements of various [mostly economic] “fundamentals”

Silver asks:

Can political scientists “predict winners and losers with amazing accuracy long before the campaigns start”?

And his answer

The answer to this question, at least since 1992, has been emphatically not. Some of their forecasts have been better than others, but their track record as a whole is very poor.

And the models that claim to be able to predict elections based solely on the fundamentals — that is, without looking to horse-race factors like polls or approval ratings — have done especially badly. Many of these models claim to explain as much as 90 percent of the variance in election outcomes without looking at a single poll. In practice, they have had almost literally no predictive power, whether looked at individually or averaged together.

Pielke the younger says:


And he goes on, in his usual inimitable way, to dissects the issue, establishes the parameters of what a ‘skillful’ model would have to accomplish in order to prove its, er, skillfulness, how modelers fool themselves and others into thinking that their pet model has some skill, and then lays out the actual track record – not good.

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Chiefest-The Club of Rome, Paranoia and the Recitivism of the Aristocratic Impulse

Khunrath in his laboratory - Hans Vredeman de Vries - source Wikimedia

Chiefio, has another even more long winded post than the last, its also possibly more interesting and more significant.  This one is about  The Club of Rome and its paranoia and anxiety producing effects upon those who gape in horror at the the apparent avariciousness of its agenda.  If after reading my previous post you were already beginning to put together the ‘A list’ for your own defenestration party, Chiefio provides you with quite an index.

Any discussion of a somewhat shadowy NGO such as the Club of Rome naturally provokes quite a bit of anxiety turning around the subjects of who they are, what is their REAL agenda and WHERE DO THEY GET THEIR MONEY.  Quite naturally this sort of thing can provoke a certain amount of paranoia, something I am always on guard against [in myself especially] if for no other reason that it tends to leave me disheartened, pissed off, or both.

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