Numbers, Numbers, and Numbers

What's in a Prediction?

11.22.12 3:33 AM ET

I'll be spending part of my Thanksgiving break reading Nate Silver's The Signal and The Noise. When finished, I'll write up something for the bookclub. Until then, enjoy this quote that is slightly relevant to an epistemic bubble this blog discusses on occasion.

Tetlock’s hedgehogs were especially bad at understanding these probabilities. When you say that an event has a 90 percent chance of happening, that has a very specific and objective meaning. But our brains translate it into something more subjective. Evidence from the psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky suggests that these subjective estimates don’t always match up with reality. We have trouble distinguishing a 90 percent chance that the plane will land safely from a 99 percent chance or a 99.9999 percent chance, even though these imply vastly different things about whether we ought to book our ticket.

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