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.

Special Counsel

In this episode (recorded 5/17/17), we discuss Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s appointment of former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel overseeing the investigation of Russian interference in last year’s US election. We try to forecast whether recent revelations will ultimately lead to President Trump’s impeachment or resignation. Would a Congress of Marcus Aureliuses impeach Trump? Is there any abuse of office that would convince Republicans to vote for impeachment? Is Robert Mueller America’s Batman?

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.

Happy Summer Forecasts

In this episode (recorded 5/3/17), we take a little break from politics to make some summer forecasts. We start by talking about climate change and whether catastrophe losses are likely to increase this year.

Next we make our forecasts for the movies and songs of the summer. Robert says the biggest movie will be either “Guardians of the Galaxy 2” or “Despicable Me 3”. Atief guesses it will be “Spiderman: Homecoming” and  that “It Comes at Night” could be a sleeper hit, but thinks that “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” will be a major flop. Robert thinks that either Kyle’s “iSpy” featuring Lil Yachty or Kendrick Lamar’s “Humble” has a chance to be this summer’s jam. Robert and Atief agree that there are about even odds that the top song on the Billboard Hot 100 on August 1 will have the word “featuring” in the artist line and also that there are close to even odds that one of the top two songs will feature Drake in some way.

Then we return to politics. We talk about the acrimonious debate between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen and Scott gives Macron a 97% chance of winning the French presidential election. We also discuss whether FBI Director James Comey swung the US presidential election to Donald Trump. We end the podcast—which was recorded the night before the revised Republican health care bill did pass in the House—by giving it a roughly 50% chance of passing in the House.

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.

Roman Hagelstein Interview

In part one of our interview with German economist and superforecaster Roman Hagelstein (recorded 4/14/17), we discuss how Roman’s German background affects his forecasting, how he gamed one of the Good Judgment Project’s forecasting markets, the value of “extremizing” forecasts, and why civil wars tend to last a long time.

In part two of our interview with Roman, we discuss American policy in Syria and what Germans think about German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Then we talk about the Brier Fund, a private investment fund run by superforecasters, and about the challenge of forecasting financial markets. After a digression on who will win Most Valuable Player in the NBA this year, we finish up by talking about the chance of a crisis related to North Korea in the near future.

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.

Episode 24: Striking Syria

We start this episode (recorded 4/5/2017 and updated 4/7/2017) by discussing where the U.S. will rank next year in Transparency International’s global Corruption Perceptions Index.

Next we talk about whether we thought the U.S. would strike Syria in response to Bashar al-Assad’s apparent use of chemical weapons in Idlib. Events moved quickly—the U.S did in fact launch 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airbase the day after we recorded. So we added a new segment we recorded after the attack to the discussion looking at why we didn’t think a strike was more likely.

We go on to talk about the “nuclear option”, whether the Senate will get rid of the filibuster for legislation, and the Democrats’ chances of retaking Congress. We close the podcast by putting in a plug for the Electronic Frontier Foundation and recommending you use a virtual private network when you’re online.

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.

Episode 20: A Month in the Age of Trump

In episode 20 (recorded 2/20/17), we cover the first month of the Trump administration. We consider the odds that Trump will put his face on a trillion-dollar coin, debate the limits of presidential power, talk about how we each deal with information overload, and discuss whether Congress will pass a large infrastructure bill this year. We go on to discuss Trump senior counselor Steve Bannon’s theory of American history and the bizarre apparent assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s half-brother in Malaysia. We end by guessing that in the next podcast we’ll be talking about a revised executive order on immigration.

You can also 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.

Episode 17: Michael Story Interview

In episode 17 (recorded 1/26/17), we interview Good Judgment director and friend of the podcast Michael Story. Michael is a British superforecaster with an MSc. in public policy research from the London School of Economics.

We talk with Michael about his approach to forecasting and about his experience training forecasters. We go on to discuss the class politics of Brexit, the rise of nationalism in Europe, what happens if the US support for NATO weakens, and who would win in a rematch between the UK and Argentina. We close by considering whether there is realistic chance that a country uses a nuclear weapon in 2017.

The article on training forecasters Michael mentioned is

Mellers, Barbara, et al. “Psychological strategies for winning a geopolitical forecasting tournament.” Psychological Science 25.5 (2014): 1106-1115.

You can also find NonProphets on iTunes 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 the contact page or e-mail us at (nonprophetspod [at] gmail.com). And if you enjoy this podcast, please rate us on iTunes and recommend us to your friends.

Episodes 10 and 11: Election Post-Mortems

We’re releasing two new episodes today! Our first post-election podcast was delayed by technical difficulties, so we’re posting two podcasts at once.

In Episode 10—recorded two days after the election—we conduct a post-mortem of our election forecasts (Robert also wrote about how wrong his forecast was here). Scott describes election night at the US Embassy’s party at a Romanian Hard Rock Café. We start to look at what effect Trump’s election is likely to have on foreign and domestic politics. We also consider whether Obama will preemptively pardon Hillary Clinton.

In Episode 11—recorded the following week—we talk about the Oxford English Dictionary’s selection of “post-truth” as its “word of the year” and how we can forecast post-truth politics. We try to answer a listener question about how we know whether our forecasts were good or bad. We speculate about the possibility of electoral college reform, a national Election Day, faithless electors, and a Trump impeachment. We close the episode by talking about Trump’s foreign policy and whether it’s a good idea to name your child “Kermit”.

As always, if you have questions, ideas for future episodes, or would like to suggest a possible black swan event, use the contact page or e-mail us at (nonprophetspod [at] gmail.com). And if you enjoy this podcast, please rate us on iTunes and recommend us to your friends.

Episode 9: Short, Pre-Election Survival Guide

In this episode, we give our listeners some advice for how to survive the last few days before the election. We discuss the most recent polls, speculate about whether there will be any more surprises over the weekend, and generally try to put the last-minute horse-race coverage of the election in context.

We also talk about the erosion of democratic norms in US politics and try to guess how long it will take for either candidate to concede the election. Atief argues we should take a Mean Girls approach to restoring norms and Scott goes into the history of Transylvanian Saxon divorce customs.

As always, if you have questions, ideas for future episodes, or would like to suggest a possible black swan event, use the contact page or e-mail us at (nonprophetspod [at] gmail.com). And if you enjoy this podcast, please rate us on iTunes and recommend us to your friends.