When it comes to discussion of probabilities, Nassim Taleb’s opinion carries a lot of weight.
Taleb is author of the New York Times bestseller The Black Swan: Impact of the Highly Improbable.
Using nearly the same logic as I did earlier, Taleb blasted Nate Silver in a series of tweets on election odds.
Tweet #1 – Stochastics
Tweet #2 – Business
Tweet #3 – Variance
Tweet #4 – Mathematical Explanation
Peter Atwater Chimed In On Clinton Bounce
Attitudes the Missing Factor
It is clear that Silver cannot distinguish between the odds of a team winning a ball game the next day and the odds of someone winning a primary a year away or winning an election five months away.
Social mood is in play, and Silver missed it for the entire primary season.
Silver now posts wildly swinging election odds day to day as if he can measure attitudes and sentiment four to six months away.
I commented social attitudes, and on the absurdity of this type of forecasting many times. Here are a number of choices.
- December 10, 2015: Attitudes, Attitudes: Dear Nate Silver, Regarding Donald Trump, You Are Missing Something Big!
- January 31, 2016: Nate Silver’s Continual Underestimation of Donald Trump’s Chances
- June 29, 2016: Here We Go Again: Nate Silver Says “79% Chance Clinton Wins”; Battleground Bloodbath
- August 4, 2016: Peak Hillary
Here are a few snips on “Peak Silliness” from my “Peak Hillary” post.
- Supposedly, Hillary has a 79.9% chance of winning in November as of today.
- Supposedly, Trump had a 50.1% chance of winning in November on July 31, just four days ago!
- Supposedly, Hillary had a 77.4% chance of winning in November on July 12.
This is pure idiocy.
Silver is clearly taking the news of the day and projecting it out to November when voters clearly have a time span of about three days.
Social Mood is clearly in control here.
Silver is totally clueless about what social mood will be in November, just as he was totally clueless about social mood the entire Republican nomination process.
Who Better Than Silver?
In response to “Peak Hillary” reader “BH” responded “If not Nate Silver, then who? What better prognosticator is there? Or does Mish just reject that elections can ever be forecast with any significant accuracy?”
Actually, when it comes to this nomination process and election I have done far better than Silver.
If you are looking for someone who understands fat tails better than nearly all of us, then pay attention to Taleb.
I do not profess to be better than Silver at predicting ball games, and Silver might be spot on when the election gets down to the final week.
The closer to the election, the better Silver will get.
For now, Silver does not understand social attitudes.
He does not know how to put attitudes into his model, and his wildly changing numbers prove that statement.
While difficult to predict with any degree of certainty, it is a huge mistake to pretend they do not exist.
Attitudes change constantly, but the rate of change in attitudes will slow within 2-3 weeks of the election, and possibly a bit before that, as minds are made up.
Meanwhile, what Taleb labels as “stochastics” is simply huge day-to-day attitude swings based on post-convention bounces and silly things Trump says.
There is no solid evidence that minds have not been made up yet. Until attitudes firm, we are likely to see more huge swings, all leading to ridiculous assessments of the “odds”.
I do not know what the odds are, but I do know they are not (at the moment) 83.1% for Hillary as Silver projects today.
There is simply too much time between now and the election to be that confident, this year, given wild moves in attitudes.
One must also take into consideration voter’s history of eventually ignoring things that Trump says. Curiously, for such a big fan of history, the one piece of history that’s most relevant, Silver ignores.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock