Statistics is ultimately counting, and therefore is incredibly vulnerable to discretion in choosing "what counts". Take the unemployment rate as one example. When people realize that its not equivalent to "people who do not have a job", how can you complain that they trust statistics less?
Expert authority is in decline because it should be, as there is an increasing body of evidence that experts, from politics to medicine, have almost no advantage in forecasting power than the average person.
Why should "experts" (often just pundits) have any authority when they have consistently demonstrated they deserve very little?
Finally, the political slant of this article, going along with the decried "fake news", blaming the election results on these declines in authority, is pathetic. It's basically an extension of "the other side is filled with stupids" and has no credibility, no matter how you dress it in professional journalistic veneer.
EDIT: the intent here was to expose overconfidence and vague predictions, not pay fan service to ethereum or suggest an actual bet. if anybody is interested in how to make proper predictions, I recommend the books by Philip Tetlock, especially the latest called Superforecasting .
EDIT2: I wasn't aware my views are so controversial, so here is some more background: If somebody was convinced something couldn't happen, he'd assign a probability of 0 to that event. If that person wanted to act according to her believes, taking on bets, no matter the odds, would have positive expected utility. Since almost nobody takes on such bets, it suggests that we generally over-exaggerate when we say things like "impossible" or "sorry for you loss", hence we are being overconfident.
The other is vagueness. By not being clear about what exactly we are predicting, we're leaving the door open to back out of it later. In fact, Tetlock has found that, by making vague predictions, experts could later convince themselves (and others) that they were "close", skewing their sense of accuracy. Unfortunately, when subject to a prediction tournament with strict rules, they would score no better than random .
Ehrlich gets credit in my book for making concrete falsifiable predictions and acknowledging some are wrong. He follows a classic pattern identified by Tetlock in claiming his major error was a matter of timing.
1. To what extent did his efforts help forestall the catastrophe he predicted? Any at all? In the article, his efforts are cited as having a significant impact on Indian family planning policies. Any way to measure the impact on the population numbers?
2. Was anybody citing Borlaug and the Green Revolution at the time he made his prediction? Was the Green Revolution complete at that time or its impacts a foregone conclusion? If not, how much more probable might his predictions have been absent this revolution? (I guess question hints at another excuse-making Tetlock pattern: the historical counter-factual or "I just got unlucky!")
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