Thursday, July 14, 2016

Most proposals are based on unprovable beliefs that are mistaken as demonstrable truth

I can't get to the original gated article but the original pointer is from Lunch with Philip Tetlock by Tyler Cowen. From an interview between the Financial Times and the University of Pennsylvania forecasting expert, Philip Tetlock.
He [Tetlock] is trying to replace the public debates he describes as “Krugman-Ferguson pie fights” — a reference to the clashes over austerity between the economist and Nobel laureate, Paul Krugman and the economic historian, Niall Ferguson — with adversarial collaboration. “You give each side the opportunity to pose, say, 10 questions it thinks are probative and resolvable, and that it thinks it has a comparative advantage in answering” and then have the two sides give testable answers . . . Here is a very clear psychological prediction: people will come out of that tournament more open-minded than they otherwise would have been. You can take that one to the bank.”
That is a very clever model. Given that most proposals are based on unprovable beliefs that are mistaken as demonstrable truth, this approach would clear the argument terrain very quickly.

I also really like the single line -
There is a price to be paid for feeling good about your beliefs.
Regrettably, authoritarians always try to off-load the price onto those least able to pay. Given that the policies that make the elite feel good also tend to have very high costs, low or non-existent benefits and high unintended consequences, this is especially tragic.

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