Friday, August 4, 2017

Crowdsourcing Prediction

From Slate Star Codex:

Why Not More Excitement About Prediction Aggregation?
There’s a new ad on the sidebar for Metaculus, a crowd-sourced prediction engine that tries to get well-calibrated forecasts on mostly scientific topics. If you’re wondering how likely it is that a genetically-engineered baby will be born in the next few years, that SpaceX will reach Mars by 2030, or that Sci-Hub will get shut down, take a look.

(there are also the usual things about politics, plus some deliberately wacky ones like whether Elon Musk will build more kilometers of tunnel than Trump does border wall)

They’re doing good work – online for-cash prediction markets are limited to a couple of bets by the government, and they usually focus on the big-ticket items like who’s going to win elections. Metaculus is run by a team affiliated with the Foundational Questions Institute, and as their name implies they’re really interested in using the power of prediction aggregators to address some the important questions for the future of humanity – like AI, genetic engineering, and pandemics.
Which makes me wonder: what’s everyone else’s excuse?

Back when it looked like prediction markets were going to change everything (was it really as recent as two months ago?), various explanations were floated for why they hadn’t caught on yet. The government was regulating betting too much. The public was creeped out by the idea of profiting off of terrorist attacks. Or maybe people were just too dumb to understand the arguments in favor.
Now there are these crowd-sourced aggregator things. They’re not regulated by the government. Nobody’s profiting off of anything. And you don’t have to have faith that they’ll work – Philip Tetlock’s superforecasting experiments proved it, and Metaculus tracks its accuracy over time. I know the intelligence services are working with the Good Judgment Project, but I’m still surprised it hasn’t gone further.

Robin Hanson is the acknowledged expert on this, thanks to his long career of trying to get institutions to adopt prediction markets and generally failing. He attributes the whole problem to signaling and prestige, which I guess makes as much sense as anything. Tyler Cowen says something similar here. But I’m still surprised there aren’t consultant superforecaster think tanks hanging up their shingles....MORE
We have quite a few posts on forecasting in general and Tetlock in particular. If interested last year's "Jason Zweig Interviews Wharton’s Philip Tetlock on How Forecasters Can Do Better" has some of the links.