Welton Chang Interview

In this episode (recorded 9/20/17), we interview superforecaster Welton Chang. Welton is a Ph.D. candidate in psychology at Penn in Philip Tetlock and Barb Mellers’ Good Judgment Laboratory. He served in Iraq and South Korea as an intelligence officer in the US Army and as analyst for the Department of Defense.

We start by talking with Welton about how he got involved the Good Judgment Project and the Good Judgment Laboratory. Then we talk about uncertainty in forecasting and Vizzini’s Princess Bride conundrum, the value of algorithmic forecasts (which we also talked about on another recent podcast), the limits of modern warfare, and whether Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump are rational actors.

We go on to talk about designing training materials for Good Judgment Project forecasters, IARPA’s CREATE program on improving analytic reasoning, avoiding groupthink, the importance of diversity in forecasting, and the art and practice of applying Bayes’ Theorem. We close with a shout out to Welton’s rescue cats, Percy and Portia.

You can read Welton Chang’s essay on the Iran deal, “Go Set a Watchdog on Iran” here. You can read Evan Osnos’ “The Risk of Nuclear War With North Korea” here. You can follow Welton (@WeltonChang) on Twitter here. You can follow Welton’s cats (@percyandportia) on Instagram here.

You can find NonProphets on BlubrryiTunesStitcher and Google Play. As always, if you have questions, ideas for future episodes, or would like to suggest a possible black swan event, you can use our contact page or e-mail us at (nonprophetspod [at] gmail.com). If you enjoy this podcast, please rate us and recommend us to your friends.

Too WEIRD

In this episode (recorded 9/13/17), we review our summer movie and music forecasts. We also discuss predictions we made about US catastrophe losses.

Next we talk about Harvard’s retraction of its offer to Michelle Jones of admission to its graduate history program and Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ suggestion that Jemele Hill should be fired for saying that President Trump is a “white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself with other white supremacists.”

We go on to talk about the importance of diversity and collegiality in forecasting teams. We argue that homogenous groups tend to be biased in something like the way conducting research primarily on subjects who are“WEIRD” (western, educated, and from industrialized, rich, democratic countries) has biased academic psychology. Then we discuss recent research that suggests that decentralized, egalitarian groups are less prone to groupthink and the value of the Delphi method in forecasting.

We close with a discussion of Atief’s find-unlucky-people-and-do-the-opposite decision-making strategy and his general inability to take anything seriously.

You can find NonProphets on BlubrryiTunesStitcher, and Google Play. As always, if you have questions, ideas for future episodes, or would like to suggest a possible black swan event, you can use our contact page or e-mail us at (nonprophetspod [at] gmail.com). If you enjoy this podcast, please rate us and recommend us to your friends.

Can We Trust AI Judgments?

We start this episode (recorded 8/16/17) by announcing the Hybrid Forecasting Competition (HFC). Good Judgment is collaborating with IARPA to run a tournament designed to study whether human forecasters can work with machine systems to improve geopolitical forecasting. You can sign up to volunteer as a forecaster in the competition here.

We then interrupt the podcast briefly to explain that some of the podcast audio was lost due to what we believe was an attack by a rogue artificial intelligence named “Super Bert”.

Next we discuss to what extent we can believe the forecasts of AI forecasters. Robert argues that it can be hard even to know when trust human forecasters and recommends a recent Harvard Business Review interview with former US National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection and Counter-terrorism Richard Clarke on “Cassandras”, whose warnings of disasters aren’t believed. Atief makes the case that our unfamiliarity with the behavior of AI should it harder to trust AI when it gives surprising results.

We go on to talk about the “value-alignment problem” in AI design, Microsoft’s racist chatbot, Isaac Asimov’s three laws of robotics. We then return to the question of how much we can trust AI judgments but our discussion ends suddenly when Super Bert destroys the rest of our recording.

You can find NonProphets on BlubrryiTunesStitcher and Google Play. As always, if you have questions, ideas for future episodes, or would like to suggest a possible black swan event, you can use our contact page or e-mail us at (nonprophetspod [at] gmail.com). If you enjoy this podcast, please rate us and recommend us to your friends.

Overtaken By Events

We start this episode (recorded (8/22/17) by talking about the difference between what President Trump says and what he believes and whether it matters. Next we discuss US policy on Afghanistan and North Korea. Then we consider whether another top white house official would leave the administration soon—Deputy Assistant to the President Sebastian Gorka was subsequently fired while were editing the podcast. We end the podcast by asking whether Trump would pardon Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio for refusing to obey a judicial orders—and two days later Trump did pardon Arpaio.

You can find NonProphets on BlubrryiTunesStitcher and Google Play. As always, if you have questions, ideas for future episodes, or would like to suggest a possible black swan event, you can use our contact page or e-mail us at (nonprophetspod [at] gmail.com). If you enjoy this podcast, please rate us and recommend us to your friends.

Colin Teichholtz Interview

In this episode (recorded 8/3/17), Robert and Scott interview Colin Teichholtz, a partner and portfolio manager at global investment firm Pine River Capital. We begin by talking about how he was able to make money in college arbitraging used books and what makes someone good at identifying value in markets. We go on to talk about whether people who trade with major investment firms are suckers, what the value of financial advice is, and the advantages and disadvantages of risk parity funds.

Next we talk with Colin about what drives changes in market volatility and why political events often have little effect on markets. We go on to discuss what will happen if Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling and why market volatility has been low recently. Then we look at why inflation hasn’t been going up much in the US even though the unemployment rate is low and whether productivity growth in the US has stalled.

We close the podcast by asking Colin whether he thinks Mark Zuckerberg will run for president in 2020, what it’s like to work next to Trump Tower, and how he ended up introducing Michael J. Fox to Anthony Scaramucci (donate to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research here).

The exit music is a clip from “Word Up” by Cameo. You can find NonProphets on BlubrryiTunesStitcher and Google Play. As always, if you have questions, ideas for future episodes, or would like to suggest a possible black swan event, you can use our contact page or e-mail us at (nonprophetspod [at] gmail.com). If you enjoy this podcast, please rate us and recommend us to your friends.

Twice As Bright, Half As Long

In this episode (recorded 7/26/17), we discuss the probability that Donald Trump will leave office sometime in the first two years of his term. Scott thinks PredictIt’s markets—which currently give Trump a 17% chance of leaving office before the end of 2017 and a 35% chance of leaving office before the end of 2018—are pretty well priced, but Atief thinks PredictIt’s odds of Trump leaving are too high.

We end the podcast by considering the possibility that voter suppression will have a significant effect on the midterm elections in the US; whether there is likely to be compelling evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia; and the danger of a North Korean nuclear attack on Hawaii.

You can find NonProphets on BlubrryiTunes, Stitcher and Google Play. As always, if you have questions, ideas for future episodes, or would like to suggest a possible black swan event, you can use our contact page or e-mail us at (nonprophetspod [at] gmail.com). If you enjoy this podcast, please rate us and recommend us to your friends.

Football With Knives

We kick off this episode (recorded 6/21/17) with a discussion of Romanian politics and tax policy. We move on to the recent special election in Georgia’s 6th congressional district to replace Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price, the Republican healthcare bill’s prospects in the Senate, whether military action could make President Trump more popular, and whether Nancy Pelosi makes it harder for Democrats to win elections. We close the episode by talking about  “Trump’s Mirror”, Kansas’s experiment in conservative economics, and how the Supreme Court might rule in the upcoming partisan gerrymandering case.

Here’s a link to the Frank Rich interview of Chris Rock we mention in the podcast. You can find NonProphets on BlubrryiTunes and Google Play. As always, if you have questions, ideas for future episodes, or would like to suggest a possible black swan event, you can use our contact page or e-mail us at (nonprophetspod [at] gmail.com). If you enjoy this podcast, please rate us and recommend us to your friends.

Trump Forecasting Models

In this episode (recorded 6/14/17), Atief and Scott welcome Robert back from his vacation in Canada and catch him up on the news—and in particular on former FBI Director James Comey’s congressional testimony—while he was gone. Next they talk about the apparent rise in political violence in the US. Then they consider various models for understanding and forecasting the Trump administration. They close the episode by considering the COVFEFE Act and the significance of President Trump’s twitter account.

The episode’s intro music is a clip from Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys Are Back in Town”. You can find NonProphets on BlubrryiTunes and Google Play. As always, if you have questions, ideas for future episodes, or would like to suggest a possible black swan event, you can use our contact page or e-mail us at (nonprophetspod [at] gmail.com). If you enjoy this podcast, please rate us and recommend us to your friends.

The Fisher Protocol

In this episode (recorded 6/8/17)—produced while Robert was on vacation—Atief and Scott ask whether probability broke in 2016. They start by talking about former FBI director James Comey’s testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Atief argues that Comey’s testimony is pivotal in the sense that how politicians react to it will determine how we should forecast future events.

Atief and Scott discuss “the Fisher Protocol”, Harvard Law professor Roger Fisher’s suggestion that the nuclear launch codes should be implanted next to the heart of a volunteer so that the president would have to kill the volunteer in order to use nuclear weapons. Atief and Scott also talk about political violence and partisanship in light of the May 26 attack on a commuter train in Portland and the June 3 London Bridge attack; the state of Kansas’ experiment in conservative economics; the snap election in the UK; and whether President Trump will discover his pardon power this year.

You can find NonProphets on BlubrryiTunes and Google Play. As always, if you have questions, ideas for future episodes, or would like to suggest a possible black swan event, you can use our contact page or e-mail us at (nonprophetspod [at] gmail.com). If you enjoy this podcast, please rate us and recommend us to your friends.

The Brief Wondrous Tenure of Jim Comey

In this episode (recorded 5/10/17)—recorded the day after it happened—we look at the implications of President Trump’s surprise firing of FBI Director James Comey.

We talk about whether we think Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will appoint Special Counsel to investigate the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia (which he did this week), what President Trump might do with the pardon power, whether we should expect widespread voter suppression in 2018, what motivates the Republican Party, who the next FBI Director will be, whether President could be removed from office, and how President Trump is like the Mule from Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Series.

We end the podcast with an anecdote about and a plug for Nigel Shakespear’s book Times New Romanian.

You can find NonProphets on BlubrryiTunes and Google Play. As always, if you have questions, ideas for future episodes, or would like to suggest a possible black swan event, you can use our contact page or e-mail us at (nonprophetspod [at] gmail.com). If you enjoy this podcast, please rate us and recommend us to your friends.