Wired optimism makes it hard to heed disturbing predictions and warnings
Often times when I try to understand the modern world I end up thinking that it is not modern at all. Take the tricky question of predictions. Our desperation to know the future is very important, as is our denial when we are told what it will be. Cassandra was the cursed Greek priestess for making accurate predictions but never to be believed. The archetype exists for a very good reason.
When something terrible happens – a pandemic, a cyber attack, a financial crisis, a volcanic eruption – people first complain about the disaster and quickly start screaming why they weren’t warned.
Then emerge the memos, emails and journal columns, in which the warning had been given, precisely and repeatedly. But no one listened. A world full of rejected and demeaned Cassandra.
Do you remember Morgan Kelly, who predicted the bust? His peers later said that the manner of his prediction undermined his credibility. He didn’t give the right reasons or his tone was all wrong. But as Michael Lewis so brilliantly documented in The big court, a lot of smart people in America saw the crash coming. They even made a lot of money out of it. But no one seriously believed them when they warned of the inevitable.
Even Bill Gates, the King of the World, has been ignored. In 2015, he gave a Ted talk predicting very precisely how an influenza virus was the most likely global disaster to occur within 10 years.
Please search for the speech if you haven’t seen it. It only lasts eight minutes. It’s so specific you can see why the fools think he got it all planned out.
He said that during the Cold War, governments believed nuclear war was very likely. War never happened because those same governments took the threat so seriously that they invested time and effort to prevent one.
He warned governments that they should invest in public health infrastructure in the same way so that they are prepared to deal with a new virus. We know how it worked. They ignored Bill Gates.
Maybe we don’t want to believe in bad times because they are bad. It is also difficult to quantify the risk. Identifying events that seem unlikely but can have a massive impact on our world is the frustrating job of forecasters. the the existence of nuclear bombs made the possibility of a holocaust more credible.
The potential existence of a highly infectious coronavirus, or a warmed planet beyond sustainability, is too abstract to be believed.
Despite humanity’s penchant for the supernatural, it’s easier to believe what we can see with our own eyes. Today’s wealth is more tangible than tomorrow’s bankruptcy. It is also not only easier but necessary to hold on to the hope that tomorrow will be better than today. How to continue without believing in it? Optimism must be anchored. It takes a bomb to shatter the illusion.
Pessimists are revelers. Negativity is seen as a character flaw. This pain at the table with his warnings is not a team player.
This is the reason why the game is so addicting. We like the predictions, but the ones in which we are winners and not losers.
On RTÉ Radio 1 Thursday, Ray D’Arcy interviewed Aaron Rogan about his book Bettors: How Paddy Power Bet Billions And Change The Game Forever. It was terrifying how this toxic industry developed.
Mr Rogan described how “quants” – quantitative banking and insurance analysts – were hired by Paddy Power to revolutionize the game. They designed algorithms to make predictions not just about who would score. in the next five minutes, but also on how much each customer is willing to lose before giving up.
I wonder if they predict how many players will die by suicide?
So who do governments believe in when they take a critical look at the world today? To be fair, the reason Morgan Kelly and Bill Gates stand out is that it’s very rare to make an accurate prediction. There is another video, by David Bowie in 1999, predicting exactly how the internet would evolve. It’s so just so early that it looks like witchcraft.
There are people in the world known as super forecasters. Their work was primarily studied by Philip Tetlock, who measured the ability of political experts to predict geopolitical events.
Besides showing how poorly most pundits performed, he was able to pick the type of forecaster most likely to do it right.
He said that intellectually aggressive “hedgehogs” who know a big thing tend to make more mistakes than eclectic “foxes” who know a lot of little things. Width rather than depth was helpful. This reassured me a lot because I know a little about many subjects and often regret not being an expert in a field.
But seeing the world from a broad perspective is actually very helpful.
The most promising work shows that people can improve their predictive skills through practice. Intelligence and expertise are important, but so too is teamwork.
This points to another key quality: openness. People who are willing to listen to others and revise their predictions do much better.
The “I’m sure” brigade is more likely to be wrong.
As for Bill Gates’ forecast for 2022, he is still concerned that the ability of governments to do great things will hamper our ability to weather the pandemic. However, he also believes that Covid will gradually fade into the background and normalcy is a reasonable hope this year.
He’s got less Cassandra on it, so of course I believe him.