This supplement to Tetlock’s SALT talk on Superforecasting I’m sending around both for its own intriguing value and to encourage anyone who can help support the idea or help find a great broadcast avenue for the service (Economist? Bloomberg? Medium?).

During the Q&A at his talk, Tetlock broached the following:

“Punditry’s an art form.  To have a viable long-term career as a pundit, you have to become very adept at appearing to go out on a limb without actually going out on a limb.  You have to be saying things that sound very emphatic about what the dreadful consequences of this or that might be, but they have to be vague consequences and they have to be linked with elastic probability terms that cover both sides of maybe.

“The approach we’re thinking about right now is to take a cross section of major liberal, centrist, and conservative pundits and give their arguments to a panel of intelligent readers and ask those intelligent readers to translate the vague forecasting verbiage into numerical equivalents and then take the midpoint range and use that as a probability estimate in a forecasting tournament and say: ‘Okay, the imputed probability that Larry Summers is assigning to a two percent slowdown of the global economy in 2016 is 66 percent or 43 percent or whatever it might be.‘

“It’s an invitation, of course, to Larry Summers or whoever the pundit might be: ‘Please correct this.  If you think our panel of intelligent readers got it wrong, tell us how they got it wrong, and we’ll insert the correct number.  We’re going to put you in competition with the unwashed masses and with superforecasters and so forth.‘

“If you have an adequate media megaphone, this can be done.  I think it would move into a world in which pundits would feel a greater obligation to be more reasonably precise.  The process of doing that would make it more embarrassing to make extreme or polarizing claims.  Unnecessarily polarized debate would somewhat depolarize.  Accuracy would become more important than showing fealty to your tribe.”

Here is Phil’s detailed proposal:

Attachment: Revolutionizing the interviewing of alpha-pundits nov 10 2015.docx
Description: MS-Word 2007 document

If played out, the idea could be a highly entertaining as well as enlightening service, and it could do a lot to civilize our public discourse.  

If you have a foundation who might support the work, or a personal interest in doing so, or an inside track to a “media megaphone” that might be the broadcast medium, one handy way to contact Tetlock and his team is this:

Would you like to become a competition forecaster in Good Judgement’s tournaments?  Sign up here:

—Stewart Brand

SALT mailing list
unsubscribe / change email:

Reply via email to