Prediction Hubris, A Lesson For All
For last 18 months mainstream global media has been portraying the White House race as largely a formality with a strong lean towards the Democrats and Hilary Clinton. Even till a few hours before Donald Trump, President-Elect was announced, an overwhelming perception was in favor of the Democrat win.
Source: NY Times
So here we are with the entire world of expectations flipped on its head fairly similar to the Brexit experience a few months earlier, where the transition from the unprobeable to the stunningly possible takes place within a matter of few hours. This is happening in the era of big-data examining every minute trend, demographic, etc. and exit polls with low single-digit margin of error. With hundreds of millions of dollars being spent on analytics and ad campaigns, one would think that in today’s world we have a fairly good grasp on closely monitored outcomes. However, when consistently low-probability outcomes play out, we don’t stop to post-mortem the process. We don’t question why we were made to believe a certain way about a particular issue or why we took for granted a specific outcome. We don’t question ground realities nor do we apply our common sense to cross-examine perceptions. Maybe the perception resonates with our findings, maybe it does not. Maybe there were polling shenanigans, maybe oversampling, but we spend most of the post-event period venting about how our world has come crashing down and everything we believed is now switched from a dream to a nightmare. We embrace anger and shame over reality.
I believe it is our ego that filters what we hear and see. I believe it is our bias that then helps construct this vision of the future we would like to participate in. I believe it is our stubbornness that then forces us to remain unadaptable. It is finally our ego once again that makes the end-result manifold painful. So let us learn and internalize these life lessons and not be hooked into prediction hubris of any kind. Yes statistics and forecast models have their role and its an important one however, first and foremost, we need to pay attention to all around us. Whether we agree with others or not we must respect their opinion. We must accept that there are multiple issues faced by multiple people and we are responsible for only our opinion, our cause, our vote.