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Doomsayers’ Big Advantage

Something that may apply as well to climate as to stumbling financial markets…from Michael M. Grynbaum ‘s “Forecasters race to call the bottom to the market“, IHT, Oct 27, 2008:

[…] Even in normal times, forecasters have a strong incentive to make extreme predictions, which is why those “Dow 1,000!” reports persist. “It’s eye-popping. It’s relevant. It seems exciting,” Lamont said. Such predictions attract publicity, name recognition and a bigger client base in a business where investors pay thousands, if not millions, for stock advice and investment guidance.

And even if a forecast is off-base, there are few repercussions because they are almost always quickly forgotten […]

Even the guys forecasting in 1999 that the Dow would soon reach 36,000, are still well employed.

I have a feeling, there is something deep inside human nature that makes wild claims, especially wildly gloomy claims, simply too good news and marketing material.

Pity on us then if signs of worldwide cooling accumulate…the smart climatologist will simply extrapolate into upcoming billions of ice-encases deaths.

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  1. geoff chambers
    2008/11/04 at 17:28

    The site forecastingprinciples.com has much useful information on this, (e.g. an article by Green & Armstrong: “Global Warming: Forecasts by Scientists versus Scientific Forecasts”). Briefly, research on forecasting validity shows that members of the public are often better than experts in forecasting the future, since they tend to assume things will continue much like before, whereas the experts tend to extrapolate trends unreasonably. It’s obvious when you think about it. The big question is, why so few people do think about it.

  2. 2008/11/04 at 06:31

    The media business is now part of the entertainment business. Disaster movies are popular.

  3. 2008/10/31 at 17:38

    This is from Leon Festinger’s 1956 book When Prophecy Fails:

    “Suppose an individual believes something with his whole heart; suppose further that he has a commitment to this belief, that he has taken irrevocable actions because of it; finally, suppose that he is presented with evidence, unequivocal and undeniable evidence, that his belief is wrong: what will happen? The individual will frequently emerge, not only unshaken, but even more convinced of the truth of his beliefs than ever before. Indeed, he may even show a new fervor about convincing and converting other people to his view.”

    The more extreme the prophets’ utterances, the more fervent both they and their followers will become. True in Biblical times, true now.

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