First, the bafflement. You can file this under the "nobody could have predicted," category.

"Everyone — the staffers in the other campaigns, the bigwig political observers in the state — is scratching their heads. They don’t know what to make of this Ron Paul phenomenon," Smith said.

Next, the irony.

These "experts" were lopsided: on the occasions when they were right, they attributed it to their depth of understanding and expertise; when wrong, it was either the situation that was to blame, since it was unusual, or, worse, they did not recognize that they were wrong and spun stories around it. They found it difficult to accept that their grasp was a little short. But this attribute is universal to all our activities: there is something in us designed to protect our self-esteem.

We humans are the victims of an asymmetry in the perception of random events. We attribute our success to our skills, and our failures to external events outside our control., namely to randomness. We feel responsible for the good stuff, but not for the bad.

— Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

You know, if you stop and think abut it, virtually all news,
sensation, and much of the information you expose yourself to every day
is subtly designed (or simply accepted) to fool you into thinking that
you, or "experts," have predictive powers greater than those of any
average person, which are bad (in fact, research proves that predictive
ability is best — though still poor — with a few essential facts and
becomes increasingly compromised with more and more information). Then, the way news and information is spun after the fact, you receive constant and continual affirmation that what you’re really doing by watching every move is to vigilantly brace yourself for whatever comes along.

I’m increasingly coming to the realization that it’s a fool’s game (and to add irony: I’m blogging about it).

We’re all good at "predicting" the obvious. For example, You’ve
probably got a good 100 million American who believe Hillary is going
to be the next president (they’re "predicting" it), and another 100
million who think it’ll be Rudy, and so there’s a good chance 100
million will have been right. That’s until someone else wins, or
something even really "unpredictable" happens.

The point is that the obvious is obvious because there’s nothing
really outlying, you can’t take account for the outlying anyway, and it’s easy enough to think of how one might prepare for
either of several obvious outcomes. So, there’s no need for predictive
powers there. But big changes, i.e., the stuff that really changes our lives in huge ways (gunpowder, Enlightenment, firearms, explosives, modern warfare, industry, biotech, cars, planes, computers, Internet…) come from out of nowhere, unexpectedly; and even when they show up, people are still completely unable to reliably account for how these huge inventions will change the world forever, irrevocably. Since these events are inherently outlying, and thus unpredictable, and as already mentioned, the obvious needs no prediction, the "art" or "skill" of prediction is wholly nonexistent.

We’re spending an inordinate amount of our lives in a wasted fools game. Try it. See if you can identify the underlying, implicit "prediction" going on as you ae exposed to news, blogs, and information on a daily basis.

For myself, I find I can’t dismiss the notion that for a good part of 8 years I existed on a single monthly news source: U.S. News & World Report, delivered to wherever I happened to be in the world. I never read a newspaper, never watched a broadcast, and we didn’t have an Internet, computers, or email. The big stuff (that really is important) always seemed to make its way to me and I seem to have done OK for myself in spite of being "starved for information" on a minute-by-minute basis. How could I have possibly done it?

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More

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