William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

WMBriggs.com Podcast 6 April 2016 — It’s The End Of The World: Again

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Show is over. Archived version above. Next week, a new time; almost certainly early so people can listen to archived version any time. Keep watching the NEWS box on the right.

The votes in the poll are in! Overwhelmingly, people want late afternoon or early evening. Which is why I’m doing the show at 5 PM. I’m nothing if not responsive (and I may be nothing).

I would have picked 6 or 7 PM, and next week I might, but today I have to leave by 6 PM to report on a forum with Steve Forbes and George Gilder. (I’ll have a report on this Thursday here, and a review of Gilder’s new book next week, probably at The Stream.)

The difficulty is that posts are shown here, on the site, around 8 AM, at which time they’re also emailed to subscribers (enter your email in the form at the bottom of any page so you don’t miss anything). I don’t want to send out more than the usual morning post on Broadcast Days because I don’t want to annoy subscribers. So on Broadcast Days, which is today (Wednesdays), everybody has to remember to come back at broadcast time, or to remember to click the email at Broadcast time.

The link to the YouTube live video (above here or by email) is dark until broadcast time. It will be live for the half hour broadcast, and then go dark again. It takes about 20-30 minutes for the video to archive. At that time, I’ll update this post—but not, obviously, the email—with the archived video.

Last week’s broadcasts are now easy to find. Look to your right. No, a little more; outside this window. There it is! It’s audio only, so there’s no reason to maximize it.

I’m also going to make the audio downloadable in mp3 format, so that more people can find and use it in more places. One step at a time.

And now, finally, to the point of the broadcast…

————————————————-

Forecasting that “something will happen to the stock market” guarantees perfect accuracy. If you repeat the same forecast, you’ll garner the same accuracy. You can then, quite legitimately and with complete honesty, announce that “My predictions are perfect.”

This makes for a good sales pitch. Who doesn’t want to buy guaranteed accurate predictions?

On the hand, suppose you forecast Zorg Industries will go up. It goes down. You were wrong. Again, you forecast up; again, it goes down. Repeat several times.

You are perfectly inaccurate (in a way), and therefore it would be rational for your victim to distrust the accuracy of your next prediction. Yet if your victim said, “All his previous predictions have been wrong, therefore his next forecast certainly will be wrong”, your victim will have committed a logical fallacy, because it is possible that your next forecast will be on the money. Be sure to point this out to him, using his mistake to browbeat and shame him into buying your wares.

But if your victim said, “All his previous predictions have been wrong, therefore his next forecast will very probably be wrong” your victim utters a truth. This is the logical lesson of Chicken Little, which we all learn as schoolchildren—and then promptly forget as adults.

At least, we forget the lesson for falling skies. It’s doubtful most of us would be fooled for long by salesmen such as used in the example. Unless it was a government salesmen predicting environmental doom for the 50th consecutive year.

A history of failed predictions is always forgiven in one of two ways. (A) When the thing predicted is desirable in itself; and (B) When the action taken based on the predicted is desired in itself.

(A) is called wishcasting, where the predictions is edged in the direction of the outcome desired or believed too strongly because the outcome is desired. It it very difficult to avoid, the more so the closer the matter is to the heart. Think about political or sports predictions you have made (or the failed ones I have made!).

Only die-hard environmentalists want environmental doom; only they want a planet shorn of mankind. Very few wishcast in the manner of Paul Ehrlich (who will be discussed in the Broadcast), who would be delighted were the world to burn.

So it’s (B) that concerns us with forecasts of global cooling and global warming. The politicians who frighten (or try to) the public don’t care about forecast end result itself, but they surely want the solution of that end result. And that solution is themselves.

13 Comments

  1. Looking for outlandish predictions of doom?

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3515699/Sea-levels-expected-rise-TWICE-high-previously-thought-Antarctic-ice-sheet-release-50ft-water-2500.html

    We thought the 84 year prediction was a bit optimistic. Eighty-four year is a long time. Now, nearly 500 years into the future. One really has to WANT to believe for this one.

  2. When I voted for evening, I meant the the evening of the day before.

  3. Hrumph. (Forgot to say Hrumph).

  4. Briggs

    April 6, 2016 at 11:42 am

    acricketchirps,

    You just reinvented the infinite regress.

  5. Briggs,

    I think your survey provided misleading results.

    You should have asked for times folks cannot listen. When I said early evenings was best, I was really stating that I would not be able to listen before 8pm eastern. So, moving to 5pm, or even 7pm, wouldn’t work for me.

    It is likely that some of the folks who selected early evening are able to listen during the day — it’s just that that is not the ideal time. It is also likely that others who made the same selection are in a situation similar to mine and will not be able to listen at a time that is suitable for you.

    It may be that you record live during the day, if that works best for you, and those of us who are busy during the day will have to listen to the recording.

  6. Briggs

    April 6, 2016 at 12:45 pm

    Jim,

    I have a feeling you’re right. We’ll see how this week goes.

  7. “All his previous predictions have been wrong, therefore his next forecast will very probably be wrong” your victim utters a truth.

    “Yesterday I was a dog,
    “Today I’m a dog,
    “Tomorrow I’ll probably still be a dog.”
    – Snoopy the dog.

  8. Would have liked to listen to this, but apparently if I don’t tune in at the proper time I cannot. What is this, 1980? How about an RSS feed so I could get it on my podcast app?

  9. Briggs

    April 6, 2016 at 3:19 pm

    randy,

    RSS feed is at the bottom. And you still have time to listen, because it hasn’t even started!

    Come back at 5 PM.

    Next week, we’re doing this differently.

  10. Briggs, You’re making too much of this being a live event. Unless it’s going to be interactive like a phone-in show I don’t see the benefit. I say record it at your leisure and post a link. Most people are going to listen to the recording anyway. Just my two cents.

  11. Briggs

    April 6, 2016 at 3:41 pm

    Steve E,

    No, has to be live. But the timing stinks. Next week a change.

  12. I think Mr Briggs could give up his day job.
    We’re looking for bird songs and that one from the beginning of the podcast will
    fit next to Nightingale Sang In Barclay Square.
    With all the talk of transexuals I have a true story about a miracle duck. I’ll comment tomorrow.

  13. Very well done, Briggs, and very amusing, especially the dogs. You should have your own radio show – you have the face for it, sorry I mean the voice for it. I was especially intrigued by the fortified ale that you advertised. Using a still to make ale is definitely a lost art.

    On a more serious side I believe that there may be a third reason for the continued support of climate change alarmism. They are riding the tiger and are afraid to get off. That is, they see that the game has become destructive but fear being the next victim. We see this in the progression of socialist belief in general. I am always reminded of this passage by Solzhenitsyn:

    http://mannerofspeaking.org/2010/05/12/some-chilling-public-speaking-history/

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