Discover80,000 Hours Podcast with Rob Wiblin#60 - Prof Tetlock on why accurate forecasting matters for everything, and how you can do it better
#60 - Prof Tetlock on why accurate forecasting matters for everything, and how you can do it better

#60 - Prof Tetlock on why accurate forecasting matters for everything, and how you can do it better

Update: 2019-06-282
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Have you ever been infuriated by a doctor's unwillingness to give you an honest, probabilistic estimate about what to expect? Or a lawyer who won't tell you the chances you'll win your case?



Their behaviour is so frustrating because accurately predicting the future is central to every action we take. If we can't assess the likelihood of different outcomes we're in a complete bind, whether the decision concerns war and peace, work and study, or Black Mirror and RuPaul's Drag Race.



Which is why the research of Professor Philip Tetlock is relevant for all of us each and every day.



He has spent 40 years as a meticulous social scientist, collecting millions of predictions from tens of thousands of people, in order to figure out how good humans really are at foreseeing the future, and what habits of thought allow us to do better.



Along with other psychologists, he identified that many ordinary people are attracted to a 'folk probability' that draws just three distinctions — 'impossible', 'possible' and 'certain' — and which leads to major systemic mistakes. But with the right mindset and training we can become capable of accurately discriminating between differences as fine as 56% as against 57% likely.



Links to learn more, summary and full transcript

The calibration training app

Sign up for the Civ-5 counterfactual forecasting tournament

A review of the evidence on good forecasting practices

Learn more about Effective Altruism Global



In the aftermath of Iraq and WMDs the US intelligence community hired him to prevent the same ever happening again, and his guide — Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction — became a bestseller back in 2014.



That was five years ago. In today's interview, Tetlock explains how his research agenda continues to advance, today using the game Civilization 5 to see how well we can predict what would have happened in elusive counterfactual worlds we never get to see, and discovering how simple algorithms can complement or substitute for human judgement.



We discuss how his work can be applied to your personal life to answer high-stakes questions, like how likely you are to thrive in a given career path, or whether your business idea will be a billion-dollar unicorn — or fall apart catastrophically. (To help you get better at figuring those things out, our site now has a training app developed by the Open Philanthropy Project and Clearer Thinking that teaches you to distinguish your '70 percents' from your '80 percents'.)



We also bring some tough methodological questions raised by the author of a recent review of the forecasting literature. And we find out what jobs people can take to make improving the reasonableness of decision-making in major institutions that shape the world their profession, as it has been for Tetlock over many decades.



We view Tetlock's work as so core to living well that we've brought him back for a second and longer appearance on the show — his first was back in episode 15.



Get this episode by subscribing to our podcast on the world’s most pressing problems and how to solve them: type 80,000 Hours into your podcasting app.




The 80,000 Hours Podcast is produced by Keiran Harris.
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#60 - Prof Tetlock on why accurate forecasting matters for everything, and how you can do it better

#60 - Prof Tetlock on why accurate forecasting matters for everything, and how you can do it better

The 80000 Hours team