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Good Judgements

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For anyone interested in current events the prediction site Good Judgements provides a different perspective from what one gets via news. They pose questions about various events, and members try to predict the outcome. It is not a betting site: but they will score guesses. The events tend to be things you won;t read in the headlines. Sample questions: Will the AKP win a majority, plurality, or less in the upcoming Turkish elections? Will the heads of state of Iran and Saudi Arabia meet before Sept 1, 2016? and so on.

Though the questions tend to be a bit narrow, they're just the tip. The factors and causes that surround each question are more interesting than the actual Yes/No outcome of the question itself. One can click on a question and see people's comments. There's a tab that shows only those comments that contain links. That's a way to get to relevant news items. Some members also write informative comments: better than your average journalist, since these people are writing for news-geeks like themselves.

The web-site has a few links about its background, but -- briefly -- it was a closed research project for 4 or 5 years, asking people to make predictions, and comparing these to predictions made by experts. They claim that their crowd-sourced predictions were better than those from CIA analysts (the research was part of the government's research into such things).

The site is in open beta now, and they'll probably add more features as time goes on.

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They claim that their crowd-sourced predictions were better than those from CIA analysts (the research was part of the government's research into such things).

CIA analysts, or at least their politician taskmasters (who are cherry picking favorable analysis, and punishing dissent), are operating on severely flawed philosophy (more flawed than the general public), and, more importantly, they are heavily invested in covering up their own past mistakes. Their main concern is continuing to pump out analysis that puts them in a good light, rather than get things right.

So that claim wouldn't surprise me at all. A monkey clicking on random buttons would probably beat CIA analysts too, at this point.

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The Ability to Predict the Future Is Just Another Skill.

Phil Tetlock believes we can predict the future — we, us, anyone. In his new book, Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction, the Wharton management professor and psychologist makes the case that futurists are skilled, not special. Normal people can make boggling accurate predictions if they just know how to go about it right and how to practice.

Tetlock backs up his crystal ball populism with data: He’s spent the better part of the last decade testing the forecasting abilities of 20,000 ordinary Americans in The Good Judgment Project on topics ranging from melting glaciers to the stability of the Eurozone, only to find that the amateur predictions were more accurate — if not more so — than those of the pundits and so-called forecasting ‘experts’ the media so often defers to.

When it comes to superforecasting, it isn’t what you think, it’s how you think. Tetlock talked to Inverse about how intelligence is overrated, the failures of media pundits, and why the best superforecasters need a healthy dose of doubt.

This article is more of a short plug for the Phil Tetlock's website and book.

So the first step to becoming a forecaster is believing in it. What else did these people have in common?

There is a constellation of attributes that go into making a superforecaster. Intelligence is one of the ones that is less under your control — some degree of it is a necessary condition for moving forward and some degree of knowledge of public affairs is important. But there’s also this factor of open-mindedness — willingness to change your mind, which a lot of people in the political sphere are not willing to do. The thing I would stress, really, is the attitudinal factor.

Considering Rand's perspective on philosophy shaping history, her observations of faith leading to force and reasons relationship to freedom, understanding causal connections/relationships would be a greater prerequisite than open-mindedness, which she denounced in favor of developing an active mind as a permanent attribute.

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... understanding causal connections/relationships would be a greater prerequisite than open-mindedness, ...

I didn't read the article, but was one of the thousands who participated in the last year of the research: so, I've looked through their training material. I think "open mindedness" is being used to mean that one should not allow one's preference for a position to influence one's judgement of an outcome.

First, to set the context, this research is not about long term prediction. Each test run for one year, so that was the maximum time frame. If a question was introduced mid-year, it would need to resolve within 6 months (e.g. "will the U.S. begin air-strikes in Syria within the next 6 months"). If, for example, one person believes the US should conduct air-strikes and another believes it should not, they should be "open-minded" enough not to let their normative judgement impact their answer. Similarly, all participants may think Russia is a bad actor in Ukraine, but a question "will Russia successfully sustain the rebels  in Eastern Ukraine?" is very different from "will Russia try to take over all of Ukraine?" or "will Russia encourage Eastern Ukraine to break away". Someone who thinks in vague terms that "Putin is a bad actor who will try to take as much territory as he can" will get the answers wrong if he's biased by his dislike of Putin.

There could be a few reasons the participants (aka "the crowd") won most years of the contest -- against some other expert teams. Firstly, the questions were short-term enough that most of the factors are out in the open and clandestine sources do not add much useful information to open sources. Secondly, a lot of what the CIA does these days is not gathering clandestine information, but analyzing information that is available to anyone in the public who is well-informed and well-enough connected. Some questions (e.g. "Will the WHO declare Liberia free of Ebola by December 31st 2014?") require the use of data and information that is freely available.

 

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If anyone is interested in prediction markets, InklingMarkets is an option, though I find the site is so slow that its a pain to use.

There is also a low-traffic but long-term prediction site, using real money, but you pay to a charity: at Long bets.

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If anyone is interested in prediction markets, InklingMarkets is an option, though I find the site is so slow that its a pain to use.

There is also a low-traffic but long-term prediction site, using real money, but you pay to a charity: at Long bets.

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Are those bets legally binding, on Long bets?

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You keep the most important thing, which is public credit for winning your Long Bet. Betting where bettors keep the money winnings is defined as gambling and is illegal throughout the United States. Though some may do it informally, a formal service like Long Bets must not. Having the winnings become philanthropic gifts solves the legal problem and also introduces an appropriate element of service and generosity to the whole process. Long Bets as a way of making money would be nuts anyway - the delay is too long. Set up as a form of giving, Long Bets engages long-term thinking and long-term responsibility in even more ways.

Per the underscored portion, it may be a legal means of getting around the "gambling" issue. The Long Now Foundation has a Tax ID #. Can a non-profit charity organization take you to court for promising to send a contribution and reneging on it?

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The way it works is that both sides pay money up front. You open by paying $50 and proposing your thesis. If someone takes the other side, then it becomes a bet when both sides pay their money to the entity that runs LongBets. I believe it is a charitable entity which makes the payments by both people tax-deductible if they use the charity provision of US tax law. When the bet is resolved, the money gets paid out to the charity nominated by the winner.

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