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August 04, 2009

Reading books

This summer I read a real book. "Expert Political Judgment" by Philip Tetlock. By read, I mean that I got through Chapters 1-5, leaving Chapters 6 and 7, as well as the methodological and technical appendices, for another lifetime. Sure I read other books, the odd fiction novel, mystery novels, not to mention the Malcom Gladwells, Tim Hartfords (really enjoying "Logic of Life" at the moment), Michael Pollans, Steven Levitts, Surowieckis, Airelys... But they all cater to my ADD. Describing a situation, setting me up to expect X, and then revealing that in fact Y is the case.

Not so with Prof. Tetlock. After an entire chapter motivating the problem and setting out the methodology, Tetlock first establishes that humans (experts even) are shockingly bad at predicting the future (worse than simple statistical models, in any case). He then describes how different personality types (hedgehogs and foxes) perform differently in prediction tasks, and then another several chapters dissecting the results (how do the participants themselves justify their mistakes? what other factors correlate? etc.).

I'm glad to have "read" this book. Even though I do a lot of academic reading both out of curiosity and assigned (see previous post on reviewing work), these are also bite-size pieces, little pre-packaged juicy bits with one or two results that can comfortably be summarized in a concluding paragraph.

What did it take to read a real book? I had to put myself in situations with no internet access, on vacation, with no other books I'd want to read, preferably on a train, or sitting in proximity of others who could appreciate that I was reading a serious book and therefore upgrade their opinion of my work ethic (and cook me food).

Now that I've read the book, I need to figure out how to cite it. You see, I'm afraid I might be a bit of a hedgehog. This book doesn't quite fit into a paper I'm writing on my own version of hedgehogs vs. foxes...

Posted by ladamic at August 4, 2009 08:07 AM

Comments

If you want a (much) more ADD-friendly book about how craptastic experts (and everyone else) is at predicting the future, Nassim Taleb's "Fooled by Randomness" is good. He can be a little bit of a dick, but he mostly directs it at people with MBAs who work in finance, so it's okay.

Posted by: zane@amateurearthling.org at September 17, 2009 02:03 PM

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