Thursday, January 12, 2017

Dominic Cummings on the media

"High prestige pundits and editors yield great power over the stories told (and have far more power over politicians like Cameron, unfortunately, than they realise) but the field is not based on real expertise. Fields dominated by real expertise are distinguished by two features: 1) there is enough informational structure in the environment such that reliable predictions are possible despite complexity and 2) there is effective feedback so learning is possible.

Neither condition applies generally to politics or the political media. In the most rigorous studies done, it has been shown that in general political experts are little better than the proverbial dart throwing chimp and that those most confident in their big picture views and are most often on TV  – people like Robert Peston, Jon Snow, and Evan Davis – are the least accurate political ‘experts’ (cf. HERE).

We know that cognitive diversity is vital for political accuracy yet almost all political institutions and the media – including the dominant people at Newsnight, the Economist, the FT, and Parliament – are actually remarkably homogenous, as discussed above, and they herd around very similar ideas about how the world works. Scientists and entrepreneurs in particular are almost totally excluded from political influence.

There is no structure to hold them to account either internally or externally so, like anyone when not forced to be rigorous, they fool themselves."
From Dominic Cumming's blog. It's a very long piece, but written with intelligence and a scathing disregard for bubble-think. Quite educational.

The scientists allowed on TV normally express the liberalism of academia, and are usually interviewed outside of their field of expertise, if hard science.

A further extract:
"Polls show that better educated people are less likely to have accurate views about the science of evolution and genetics (their desire to send moral signals suckers them into believing fairy tales).

The conformity of the educated is in some ways a good thing – most obviously, a basic consensus about things like not killing one’s domestic opponents that is extremely unusual historically. But it has many bad effects too.

There is a collective lack of imagination which makes the system very susceptible to disastrous shocks. They share a narrow set of ideas about how the world works which mistakes their own view as the only possible sensible approach.

They are always writing about how ‘shocking’ things are to them – things that never were as low probability events as they imagine.  They can’t imagine something like Stalin deliberately creating a famine or deliberately murdering millions.

They tell themselves that Hitler will be ‘more sensible in power’ and ‘engagement’ is the right path. Western liberals (like Clinton and many pro-euro campaigners) and conservatives (like Bush) talked of relations with Putin as if he is a normal western politician rather than an ex-KGB mafia overlord with views very far from western liberals.

They tell each other ‘I can’t imagine President Trump, it just can’t happen’. Many conservatives are now telling themselves that they should not take Trump too literally but that too is a failure of imagination – his character is clear to those unblinded by gang mentality and he will govern in character."

Via Steve Hsu - Mr Cummings has now been added to my blog list, to your right.

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