Since the dawn of thought, people have been using various methods to foretell the future. Forecasting is now big business and many large businesses have been made smaller through incorrect forecasts.
In Australia we have suffered long enough from bad forecasts. It is time to do something to improve forecasting standards.
A National Forecasters Guild could be established in Canberra to register forecasters of all persuasions. A registration fee of $500 per year per forecaster should assist with the maintenance of the Guild and allow for research and development of this most important craft. A database would be held on all forecasters and those with complaints registered against their names would face the National Forecasters Guild Tribunal and be made to answer these complaints. This database should be open to the public and all dealings made transparent.
If the offending forecasters were deemed to be below standard, the licence to forecast would be suspended. Any forecaster who insisted on forecasting, while suspended should be fined $50,000 and the fine should be doubled for each additional breach. The Trade Practices Act at Section 52 deals with misleading and deceptive conduct and there is no reason why this should not apply to forecasters.
This initiative has come from the land that gave us Hanrahan and anybody in agriculture knows too well the impact of weather and prices on profit, especially around Berrigan New South Wales in Australia.
Australia would move forward with much greater speed if was not impeded be substandard forecasts ,whether it be the weather, interest rates, oil, real estate values or whatever else people want foretold. Good forecasters have much to gain by removing poor performers who give their profession a bad name. Poor performers must undergo retraining until their skills improve, during a monitored probationary period, at their cost. Any forecaster lacking judgement and intuition should find alternate work for the benefit of the nation.
If you look back at the recent incorrect assumptions and predictions made by many forecasters and relate that to lost opportunity, the loss to Australia is enormous and indeed disastrous to some individuals. It is easy to say that only the less intelligent use forecasts and that forecasters don’t really matter to the real world. If this is true then why have forecasts at all.
Intuition and insight are gifts that few people possess. Encouraging good insight and inspiring perceptive individuals to do good work will benefit the whole nation.
Berrigan, NSW, Australia
Just the other day I was concerned whether we should stay out as the forecast was for thunderstorms. My friend told me there was no chance of a thunderstorm because his dog Barry (short for barometer) can sense them up to 6 hours away and he currently wasn’t phased so we will be fine 🙂 the dog was correct, no thunderstorm.
Geoff Brown says
Boy oh Boy. James Hansen had better watch his back
Well looks grim for the sceptics then doesn’t it. There’ll be hell to pay for all these ice age forecasts.
But as usual another post without insight.
No discussion of deterministic versus probabilistic forecasts.
No discussion of any measurement of forecast “skill”. i.e. LEPS – ROCS etc
Any thoughts on a protocol for evaluating such a system. I guess the Royal Grande Inquistion into Forecasting with come up with that. Well Warwick be the CEO? (that should not be seen as a prediction LOL)
No discussion of false skill – or over parameterisation.
SO – ho hum ….
Janama, Interesting comment. About dogs. My parent’s dog Tillie is the same … her behaviour a good indicator of a likely thunderstorm.
PS Luke you should get out and about a bit! Not much wisdom will be found in comparing the value of deterministic versus probabilistic forecasts – especially if the underlying assumptions of the analysis are flawed.
Instead of adding more and more regulation, simply ignore “talking head” forecasters.
A physicist from Harvard Uni has spent 20+ years on his own research project, looking hard at forecasting results over a wide range of issues (nothing to do with physics per se, he is just interested in hard measurements).
over 80% of such forecasts have been 180 degrees wrong, with the remaining 20% so vague as to be just silly.
He interviewed or questioned those who had been demonstrably wrong (a large task, actually).
1) “I was misquoted”. This lie was nailed with an accurate history of the actual forecast
2) “Circumstances changed”. Since the point of prediction is to account for future change, this excuse shows the bathos of the forecasters
3) “I’ve got it right now”. Always after the event – hindsight is the lawyers’ tool.
Still people yearn for certainty and safety. A human trait of course, but one that allows constant repitition of the cycles described above.
Speaking of Hansen:
Jim Hansen, director of the Nasa God-dard space centre and a renowned critic of global measures to combat climate change, believes carbon trading is a “terrible” approach. “Carbon trading does not solve the emission problem at all,” he says. “In fact it gives industries a way to avoid reducing their emissions. The rules are too complex and it creates an entirely new class of lobbyists and fat cats.”
Ubique of the free State of WA says
Have any of the official forecasters in recent years issued medium term outlooks for more rain and cooler conditions than turned out to the case? Or, as I suspect, has it been more common for forecasters to err in the opposite direction?
Wishful thinking is clouding proper judgement it seems to me.
Doug Killeen says
Try these for a few forecasts that were very wrong
* The Club of Rome 1960’s predictions about world food drought and pestilence by 1980
* 1980’s predictions about the advent of the paperless office
* 1980’s predictions about widespread unemployment because of new technologies making huge numbers of jobs and occupations redundant
* 1990’s Land and Water Management Plan forecasts for NSW Southern Irrigation areas – see Marohasy Post a couple of weeks ago
* The Y 2k bug causing untold problems and catastrophe
* 2008 Treasury prediction of problem inflation
Others may like to add to the list
Luke, we sceptics just suggest we are closer to another ice age……not that it is imminent. You believers however keep making forecasts and they keep being wrong. pot, kettle, black!?
PERHAPS IF THERE WAS GOING TO BE A CONSEQUENCE FOR THE DOOMSDAY PREDICTIONS BEING MADE SURROUNDING AGW, the believers would stop exagerating.
Have “your mob” actually made any accurate predictions? Remember the world has been warming since the LIA so the trend has been up in temp.
Doug, we could add in nearly every prediction made by Treasury and Government about budget surpluses/ deficits, revenues etc.
How about the Crown of thorns starfish that was going to destroy the barrier reef?!
Coral bleaching that would kill off the reef
most forecasts on currencies
Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons.”
— Popular Mechanics, forecasting the relentless march of science, 1949
“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”
— Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943
“I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won’t last out the year.”
— The editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall, 1957
“But what … is it good for?”
— Engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM, 1968,commenting on the microchip.
“There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.”
— Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977
“This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.”
— Western Union internal memo, 1876.
“The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?”
— David Sarnoff’s associates in response to his urgings for investment in the radio in the 1920s.
“”We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.”
— Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962.
“Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.”
— Lord Kelvin, president, Royal Society, 1895.
“If I had thought about it, I wouldn’t have done the experiment. The literature was full of examples that said you can’t do this.”
— Spencer Silver on the work that led to the unique adhesives for 3-M “Post-It” Notepads.
“So we went to Atari and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got this amazing thing, even built with some of your parts, and what do you think about funding us? Or we’ll give it to you. We just want to do it. Pay our salary, we’ll come work for you.’ And they said, ‘No.’ So then we went to Hewlett-Packard, and they said, ‘Hey, we don’t need you. You haven’t got through college yet.'”
— Apple Computer Inc. founder Steve Jobs on attempts to get Atari and HP interested in his and Steve Wozniak’s personal computer.
“Professor Goddard does not know the relation between action and reaction and the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to react. He seems to lack the basic knowledge ladled out daily in high schools.”
— 1921 New York Times editorial about Robert Goddard’s revolutionary rocket work.
“Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value.”
— Marechal Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, Ecole Superieure de Guerre.
“Everything that can be invented has been invented.”
— Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. Office of Patents, 1899.
“Louis Pasteur’s theory of germs is ridiculous fiction”.
— Pierre Pachet, Professor of Physiology at Toulouse, 1872
“The abdomen, the chest, and the brain will forever be shut from the intrusion of the wise and humane surgeon”.
— Sir John Eric Ericksen, British surgeon, appointed Surgeon-Extraordinary to Queen Victoria 1873.
“640K ought to be enough for anybody.”
— Bill Gates, 1981
“$100 million dollars is way too much to pay for Microsoft.”
— IBM, 1982
“Who the h_ll wants to hear actors talk?”
— H.M. Warner, Warner Brothers, 1927.
thx to http://wilk4.com/humor/humore10.htm for the above “predictions”
Forecasting is a well established discipline, and the principles have been applied to assess climate forecasts. See http://www.forecastingprinciples.com/Public_Policy/global_warming_audit.html
As anyone with basic mathematical and statistical knowledge would anticipate, the analysis shows that climate forecasts are completely useless. Climate science is so full of uncertainty, that the situation is unlikely to change any time soon. All climate change policy is simply thrashing around in the dark.
Graeme Pyle says
The really sad thing about forcasters is that as they get older , they become less accurate.
Green Davey Gam Esq. says
Well quoted, Doug and Toby. A few years ago I did a short course on ‘futurology’. There was much talk of ‘left field’ and the ‘tsunami effect’. Imagine sitting on a beach, happily eating a cucumber sandwich, sipping Earl Grey tea, with your back to the ocean. Suddenly, kerpow!
I have a vague recollection (most of my recollections are now vague) of an ancient English Law, possibly current in Australia, which made fortune telling a punishable offence. It was intended for use against gypsies, with crystal balls. Might it be relevant to some claimatolo…er…climatologists? The south-west corner of Australia has had a remarkably cool and wet spring. It’s supposed to be getting hotter and drier. Should we put Gypsy Rose Luke in the stocks, and throw rotten GM tomatoes at him? (My crystal ball tells me that he will say that weather is not climate.)