Great article on the relative and perceived value of quantitative forecasting. I found the section relating to our psychological response particularly relevant. Worth a read
Yesterday, I participated in a panel discussion on the use of technology to prevent and document mass atrocities as part of an event at American University’s Washington College of Law to commemorate the Rwandan genocide.* In my prepared remarks, I talked about the atrocities early-warning system I’m helping build for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Center for the Prevention of Genocide. The chief outputs of that system are probabilistic forecasts, some from statistical models and others from a “wisdom of (expert) crowds” system called an opinion pool.
After I’d described that project, one of the other panelists, Patrick Ball, executive director of Human Rights Data Analysis Group, had this to say via Google Hangout:
As someone who uses machine learning to build statistical models—that’s what I do all day long, that’s my job—I’m very skeptical that models about conflict, about highly rare events that have very complicated and situation-unique antecedents…
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