Philip E. Tetlock on Forecasting and Foraging as a Fox | Conversations with Tyler
Philip Tetlock, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and co-author of Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction, shares his insights on the art of forecasting.
He discusses the role of forecasters, the importance of cognitive diversity, and the challenges of predicting social events.
Challenges in Predicting Social Events
Predicting social events is inherently challenging.
The world’s predictability is uncertain, and simple extrapolation algorithms are often difficult to surpass.
However, knowing when to adjust the trend is crucial.
Influence of Tetlock’s Work
Tetlock’s work has had a significant impact on political figures, particularly in the UK.
Dominic Cummings, a senior adviser to Boris Johnson, is a fan of his work and has even appointed a super forecaster to his team.
However, there is a deep intellectual divide between social scientists and conservatives.
The best forecasters aren’t just intelligent, but fox-like integrative thinkers capable of navigating values that are conflicting. – Philip Tetlock
Cognitive Style and Political Ideology
Politicians who can confront cognitive dissonance between their values and engage in complex synthetic thinking are likely to be better forecasters.
However, fluid intelligence is a more powerful predictor of forecasting accuracy.
Forecasting tournaments create a very stark monistic type of accountability in which one thing and only one thing matters and that is accuracy. – Philip Tetlock
The Role of the CIA
The CIA should be value-neutral, providing impartial, apolitical advice.
Forecasting tournaments could be a useful tool for the CIA, as they incentivize accuracy above all else.
However, reforming such an established institution presents challenges.
The Role of Counterfactuals
Counterfactuals play a significant role in forecasting and policy arguments.
They are essential in learning from history and are often employed in debates to make rhetorical points.
However, their unresolvable nature makes them a challenging aspect of forecasting.
Objective Metrics for Superior Counterfactual Forecasts
Tetlock’s focus program aims to develop objective metrics for identifying individuals and methods that generate superior counterfactual forecasts.
These forecasts are used in simulated worlds where history can be rerun to assess the probability distributions of possible outcomes.
Linking Counterfactual Reasoning and Conditional Forecasts
The program also aims to link the sophistication of counterfactual reasoning about the past to the subtlety and accuracy of conditional forecasts about the future.
As people become better counterfactual reasoners, there should be less ideological polarization in their counterfactual beliefs.
Identifying Talent and the Role of Super Forecasting
Identifying talent, particularly in environments where super bright people are not super rare, is a challenge.
Super forecasting could be a useful technique for predicting how successful people will be, based on the overlap between super forecasting and intelligence, and the overlap between intelligence and success in various professional lines of work.