Predictions and an Unfriendly Reality

predictions

We so want to know what lies ahead. That knowledge makes us more self-confident about the decisions we will soon be making. We would feel more lost and afraid were we asked to chart our lives without foreknowledge. Hence, we applaud the Nate Silvers of the world for providing us a feeling that we have greater control over our decisions after we have consulted their models and polls.

But the reality we think we thereby grasp more firmly is more complex or unfriendly than we like to acknowledge.

Everyone knew that Hillary Clinton would win the Michigan primary. EVERYBODY! The RealClear Politics average of polls had Hillary ahead by 22%, not 2%, but 22%.  The current Champion of Prediction, Nate Silver, had little choice today but to say that Bernie’s victory was one of the greatest political upsets in history.  What else could he say when he had Hillary’s odds of winning at 99 to 1 yesterday?

So believers in peace between Palestine and Israel and in the victory of #16 teams over #teams in the NCAA basketball tournament, take heart.

We are not going to stop depending on predictions, but what we certainly can do is factor into that reliance, the not insignificant odds that the predictions are very wrong. And to meliorate our sober realization that even the best predictions are depending on assumptions and contingencies that we cannot decipher, consider what fun it is when we gasp at the mystery of our lives together.

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