Experts Suck at Predicting the Future

SPOTLIGHT: 50 years ago, Paul Ehrlich made predictions about the future that weren’t slightly wrong – they were off by a country mile.

BIG PICTURE: Experts know a great deal, but only about their own area of specialty (and even then, many of their ideas may rest on ambiguous evidence and subjective judgment).

American biologist Paul Ehrlich attracted media attention in the late 1960s by forecasting imminent ecological collapse, resource depletion, and widespread famine.

“By the year 2000 the United Kingdom will be simply a small group of impoverished islands, inhabited by some 70 million hungry people,” he declared. “If I were a gambler, I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000.”

In a 1971 interview, he similarly insisted that matters were “already stretched to the breaking point…it’s going to be downhill from now on…it’s clear we are going to have to turn back our levels of technology.”

Personal computers, ubiquitous smartphones, the Internet, Google, Skype – Ehrlich imagined none of these. He had no inkling how they’d improve business efficiency, enhance safety, democratize information, enrich ordinary people’s lives, and place powerful tools in the hands of environmental activists.

Standards of living have improved considerably since 1970. The UK continues to be a thriving economy that people born elsewhere are eager to join. Since the 1970s, billions have been lifted out of abject poverty.

Where malnutritionfertility rates, child mortality, the education of girls, and air pollution are concerned, overall trends have been positive for decades. In other words: Ehrlich had no clue. He knew nothing at all about the miracles around the corner.

TOP TAKEAWAY: Being an expert in a particular field doesn’t make you smart about the big picture.

Donna Laframboise is an investigative journalist based in Port Dover, Canada. She is the author of a book critiquing mainstream feminism, as well as two books about the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

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Comments (23)

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    Spurwing Plover

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    Ehrlich and his Population Bomb poppycock he lost a big time bet over the prices of metals with Julian Simon he made all these wild predictions and none of it ever happened his Population Bomb was a dud but yet the media still listens to him and parrots his mindless babble

    Reply

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      Sonnyhill

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      Rakooi will now attempt to baffle intelligent people with bullshit.

      Reply

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    rakooi

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    Can’t find anything more timely than a 70 year old BOOK…popularized by thousands of press releases from the Fossil Fuel P.R. departments…?

    if you did YOUR homework and read some of the ICE AGE SCARE Newspaper HEADLINES of the 1970’s, you would be struck by the ‘ identical phrases ‘ used throughout….
    3 scientists of the day plus 1 book
    and
    thousands of press releases promoting the idea about a new ICE AGE &/or a NEW WORLD COOLING, from the Fathers-of- Disinformation the COAL and OIL Monopolies.
    .
    ( hence the identical phraseology from newspaper to radio announcer )
    .
    by the end of the 70’s, Public Relations Departments OIL & Coal Energy Monopolies were high fiving one another…since they had peddled a million new OIL FURNACES
    and
    had successful divert politicians from dealing with the scathing Research and Warning Reports given to the presidents
    .
    EISENHOWER in 1958
    &
    .
    JOHNSON IN 1965
    .
    …about the DANGERS of CO2 Caused GLOBAL WARMING and its changes to the climate of the entire world.
    EVEN
    NATURE’S Warnings inflicted on the world in the form of
    ACID RAIN
    and
    OZONE Depletion
    ((proven to be caused by Human/Industry dumping of Chemicals into the atmosphere))
    have been ignored or ridiculed by the USUAL SUSPECTS.
    ***
    and
    then
    we have the newer nearly identical PREDICTION
    …in the 90’s by
    Dr. Roy Spencer and Dr. John Christy
    .
    ….Global Warming will cease to exist around 2000 as the Earth returns to its cyclical fall in temps. into the next ice age.
    .
    How’s that working out for them??
    Well,
    1st
    THEY came with thousands of press releases about a GLOBAL WARMING PAUSE.
    Kinda like filling in the blanks while waiting for the ice age to start ?
    .
    2nd
    THEN THEY came with thousands of press releases about a GLOBAL WARMING HIATUS.
    Kinda like filling in the blanks with NOTHING but a Name Change.
    .
    3rd
    AND THEN THEY came with thousands of press releases about a GLOBAL COOLING.

    and then
    and then
    Then they pronounce a SOLAR MINIMUM was about to hit in 2007-2009…
    Look out snow in summer !
    ….except, of course, temperatures continued rising!
    .
    HMMMM ! Something smells rotten in Denmark.

    Roughly every two years we’re treated to headlines repeating the myth
    that Earth is headed for an imminent “mini ice age.”
    It happened in 2013, 2015, and again just recently at the tail end of 2017.
    This time around,
    the myth appears to have been sparked by a Sky News interview
    with Northumbria University mathematics professor Valentina Zharkova.
    The story was quickly echoed by the Daily Mail, Daily Caller, Breitbart,
    International Business Times, Sputnik News, Metro, Tru News, and others.
    Zharkova was also behind the ‘mini ice age’ stories in 2015,
    based on her research predicting that the sun will soon enter a quiet phase.
    The most important takeaway point is that the scientific research is clear
    – were one to occur,
    a grand solar minimum would temporarily reduce global temperatures
    by less than 0.3°C/decade, while humans are already causing 0.2°C warming per decade.

    Now
    we are hearing about a NEW SOLAR MINIMUM….
    what’s the old cheer?
    ” We want another one just like the other one”
    .
    A new Solar minimum is coming.
    …a new ice age,
    ….terrible cold
    …. BOOOO !
    and
    now
    they SHOW UP
    EATING
    CROW !
    .
    FROM
    THOSE LEADING
    CLIMATE CHANGE
    DENIERS.
    .
    ” A STUNNING ADMISSION:
    .
    “The UAH’s Dr. Roy Spencer & Dr. John Christy?
    —both leading deniers?
    —Both having predicted that Global Warming would End
    around 2000 as the Earth would return to its falling temps.
    as we enter the next Glaciation.
    —reported just last month that the UAH data
    shows a
    “Global climate trend since Nov. 16, 1978 [of] +0.12+C [0.22+F] per decade.”
    .
    Temperatures have been increasing all along !
    1.
    NO PAUSE !
    2.
    NO HIATUS !
    3.
    sure as hell,
    > > NO COOLING !
    .
    Dr. SPENCER:
    “my UAH cohort & boss John Christy, who does the detailed matching
    between satellites, is pretty convinced that the RSS data is undergoing
    ” SPURIOUS COOLING ” because RSS is still using the old NOAA-15
    satellite which has a decaying orbit…”
    .
    While every one else correct the errors in sat. data thru mathematics.
    ..
    Spencer & Christ found it ” ideologically convenient ” to allow the
    decay inaccuracies to support their previous fallacious predictions.
    .
    So
    2014 was the hottest temperatures ever recorded
    until
    2015 was the hottest temperatures ever recorded
    until
    2016 was the hottest temperatures ever recorded
    and
    2017 was the hottest 2nd to 2016 !

    Reply

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      Jireland

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      Rakooi Are you actually capable of making a point of your own.

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        G

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        Rakook is a bot. It simply scans leftist propaganda sites and re-posts random nonsense. No sense of reason, logic, spirit, or humor. Best to just ignore like junk mail telling you that you may have already won a jackpot…

        Reply

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      David Lewis

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      I’ll first address the warming pause. Climate alarmists came up with 66 excuses for the existence of this pause. If the pause didn’t exist, why did the alarmist make so many excuses for it?

      I have been closely falling the global warming/climate change fraud almost since the beginning. I never encountered predictions of a mini ice age occurring before the year 2020. I’m not saying no one made those predictions, but if so, they were certainly “under the radar.” However, the predictions that the Artic would be ice free by 2014 were loud and clear.

      As far as a mini ice age, if past solar cycles repeat themselves, we are at risk in the 2025 to 2030 time period. If I had the alarmist mentality I would say this was all but certain, but I’m a realist and the best we can do is say we are at higher risk.

      I have done my homework. In 1973 Brown, Columbia, and Oregon State Universities predicted a new major ice age. This was not a public relations product of the energy industry.

      With the elimination of temperature sensors in cooler locations, it will appear the world is getting warmer. There is so much fraud in the temperature data.

      Reply

  • Avatar

    G

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    If “experts” were really worth spit they would all be millionaires by predicting the stock market or other lucrative events. Instead they peddle their predictions to dupes willing to pay their price.

    Reply

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    aido

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    Given how difficult it is to predict what is going to happen with the weather a few weeks ahead, it is hard to believe anyone, no matter how qualified, who tells us what the climate is going to be like ten, twenty or fifty years from now. Yet some ‘experts’ do precisely that. They claim that they know, with a “high degree of certainty” not only how the world’s climate is going to develop in the future, but also how much that development is being and will be influenced by modern man’s emissions of gases, principally carbon dioxide.

    Just who are these ‘experts’?

    They are men and women who have been to university, obtained degrees and PHDs and have impressive letters after their names. Having developed an interest in climatology, they will have focused on an aspect of that subject that interests them. The field of climatology is huge; no-one could possibly be expert in every aspect. However, to qualify as an expert in any one of the many aspects of climatology, one needs to be conversant with how other aspects impinge on or influence each other. These include meteorology, oceanography, geology, volcanology, biology, anthropology, chemistry, physics and even astrophysics.

    While the experts’ knowledge and learning may to some extent set them apart, at heart they are human beings like the rest of us with similar aspirations, hopes and desires. Few are born rich, so they must earn a living if they are to enjoy a normal family life. They are subject to many of the same pressures as the rest of us. Their work can be influenced by personal attitudes, religious beliefs or political leanings. They are prone to all the human conditions including pride, jealousy, envy..

    There are not many employment opportunities for climatologists in industry and few in the state sector. Their principal source of income tends to be research grants which are available from governments, universities, foundations, philanthropists and Environmentalist organisations, among others. Such grants are rarely open-ended or without conditions. The giver will want something in return: a research paper that will prove a desired outcome or reinforce the giver’s beliefs, ambitions, opinions or prejudices. It’s natural that the recipient will want to achieve the purpose of the grant. Often, to do this puts great pressure on the expert.

    He decides how much emphasis or weight to give to any piece of evidence. The potential for further grants will be an influence as will the views of his fellow scientists (especially if there is a ‘consensus’). In the academic world, this is known as ‘herding’. As one sceptic put it: ‘if you play along with the tune, you are the most likely to get into the orchestra’.

    It would be rare for a scientist not to have his own views and theories about the subject before him. These can often colour his judgment, sometimes to the exclusion of contrary evidence. Not all scientists are hardworking, diligent and honest. Just like the rest of humanity, some are lazy and follow the line of least resistance, reluctant to buck the trend.

    It’s natural for a scientist to want to be well-regarded by his peers and to desire success. The goal is to have one’s paper published in a reputable journal. The mantra is ‘Publish or Perish’. With publication comes grants, speaking engagements, professorships, book offers and the respect of one’s peers, altogether a heady prize to aim for.

    A root problem for the scientist is that ‘good news is no news’ and few if any of his colleagues will want to hear it. They know that if they keep saying “there’s no problem here”, pretty soon no-one will want to hear from them. But come up with a doomsday scenario and everybody listens. In particular, the media eagerly snap up and embellish predictions of disaster. The fact that previously such predictions have never materialised doesn’t seem to matter. Perhaps this one will prove true?

    When a scientist’s prediction – if he’s foolish enough to put a date on it – doesn’t materialise, you’ll never hear him say “oops, I got that one wrong”; no siree. You’ll hear all sorts of fudges: something no-one could have foreseen happened after he made the prediction, or he relied on someone else’s data that was faulty, or it hasn’t happened yet, just the timing is wrong. In an important field like climatology, where there are large sums of money involved, it’s important to try to keep your reputation, life style and funding intact.

    But when there is collusion among scientists to push a particular thesis, knowing full well that its basis in uncertain, we’re entitled to get angry. Doubly so when their collusion costs us money, money that could be spent to better effect elsewhere. Shades of my electricians!

    The thousands of hacked emails that were dubbed ‘Climategate’ painted a rather sordid picture of such collusion. The falsehoods and manipulation of data was breathtaking. They showed that far from it being one or two rogue scientists, the collusion was endemic at the highest levels of the whole climatology profession.

    At the United Nations Conference on Environment Development in Rio in 1992 – otherwise known as the Earth summit – a document was produced, called the Rio Document. It contains 27 principles, all signed up to by the UN’s 196 members.

    Principle 15 is an eye-opener; it states that

    “lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-
    effective measures to prevent environmental degradation”.

    So, there you have it: the ‘experts’ no longer have to be certain or prove their case beyond doubt. They can just pursue their own Environmentalist agenda, hidden under the pretence of Doing The Right Thing – as they see it. Against that background, it’s easy to see how the politicians have been led astray.

    Stephen Schneider, science advisor to 7 US presidents from Nixon to Obama, puts it even more brazenly:
    “…we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements and
    and make little mention of any doubts we might have”
    and: “Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and
    being honest”.

    There are dozens of such quotes from scientific ‘experts’ and yet the reports they publish are taken at face value by politicians and the media and that’s what you read in your paper over the cornflakes.

    The campaign by these ‘experts’ to force their point of view on us is eerily reminiscent of another such campaign, from 75 years ago, illustrated by 2 quotes:

    “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to
    believe it”.
    and
    “Tell a lie so colossal that no-one could believe that someone could have the
    Impudence to distort the truth so famously”.

    The first is by Josef Goebbels, Hitler’s chief propagandist; the second is by Adolf himself, taken from his book, Mein Kampf.

    We’re not talking about Nazis today, but we are talking about colossal lies. Because they are uttered by scientists with letters after their names, they are taken as gospel by those who are unwilling or unable to seek the truth for themselves.

    That’s how you get it wrong – you listen to the experts.

    Reply

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      Sonnyhill

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      Thank you, AIDO. Global Warming is not science, it’s a political Gordian knot. Please comment here more often.

      Reply

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      G

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      Thank you AIDO! That is a brilliant summary of the complexity of this bias and the mindsets of so many “climate scientists”. Most are so deeply absorbed in their own esoteric endeavors and so ingrained with their bubble of group think that they have never wished or thought to take a larger view. Throw in reliance on politicized grant funding that rewards predetermined outcomes and we have the formula for epic scientific corruption.

      Reply

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      Templar

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      Thanks AIDO. Well said.

      Reply

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    Spurwing Plover

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    Rakooi crawling out of their hole deep from the center of the earth say hi to Arnie Sakison for me

    Reply

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    Sonnyhill

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    I am often frustrated while using Google. Most searches start in favor of left-leaning results.
    I searched “Donna Laframbroise”. Google replied with two options, one with my spelling and one their IMPLIED correct spelling “Donna Laframbroise”. Both were spelled the same. I think that I just tripped over Google’s liberal bias. Search results were different.

    Reply

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      Sonnyhill

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      Laframbroise changed the name of her website from “noconcensus.org” to “nofrakkingconsensus” . Google split the search results between them.

      Reply

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      G

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      Google has recently admitted that they have certain protocols built in to their search engine that discounts many positions (determined by keywords) to be conservative, while liberal positions are given more weight. Another example of the left media stacking the deck.

      Reply

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        Sonnyhill

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        I thought that the Internet was popular with youngsters, therefore most search results would be biased in favor of liberals.
        However, based on my experience, Google’s results for the Donna L. search were a first. Regardless of the current name of her blog site, all results normally would have appeared without asking me to choose one. Odd.

        Reply

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      David Lewis

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      I too have been frustrated by Google searches and now rarely use them on the subject of climate change. One time I wanted to find out what the current average pH of the world oceans were. All Google gave me was page after page of alarmist articles about ocean acidification. I finally found the information in one of the alarmist articles that the ocean pH was 0.1 more acid the historical average. This was well within the range of normal variability. However, the National Geographic web site was treating it as if it were a disaster caused by climate change. This was a few years ago.

      Reply

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        Sonnyhill

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        The oceans are nowhere near acidic. The pH is basic . Between basic and acidic is neutral, like distilled water. The word “acidification” is another alarmist lie.

        As for Google searches, I suspect that activists may be gaming the algorithms.

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          David Lewis

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          You are absolutely correct and I shouldn’t have left things simple. Neutral is a pH 7. A pH of lower value is on the acid side, a higher value is on the basic side. Oceans are always more than 7, so are always basic. The term acidification of the oceans means being less basic. “Acidification” was selected either as a simplification for a public not well educated in science, or it might have been selected to tell a lie.

          Reply

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    Spurwing Plover

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    I can still remember back when the rare planetary alignment and all these wackos who gathered on certian places Including our own volcano Mt Shasta they were going to meditate send out their vibes and bring about World Peace and Nothing and the nut who was going to stop the Gulf Oil Spill using Meditation just proves the nut dos,nt roll far from the tree

    Reply

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    Amber

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    Herr Ehrlich population control strategy suggestions were much more civil than the Nazis . Isn’t it nice when these bull shit artist live long enough to be revealed as the intellectual midgets they really are ?

    Reply

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    Spurwing Plover

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    Ehrlich made all sorts of wild and rediculous statements about the future by so did many other back when Ted Danson of the TV series Cheers in 1990 said WE HAVE TEN YEARS LEFT TO SAVE THE PLANET and there are those who fell Hook,Line and Sinker for this Malarkey and many especialy in the Hollywood crowd still beleibe this bull twaddle

    Reply

  • Experts Suck at Predicting the Future – fisherynation.com

    |

    […] SPOTLIGHT: 50 years ago, Paul Ehrlich made predictions about the future that weren’t slightly wrong – they were off by a country mile. BIG PICTURE: Experts know a great deal, but only about their own area of specialty (and even then, many of their ideas may rest on ambiguous evidence and subjective judgment). American biologist Paul Ehrlich attracted media attention in the late 1960s by forecasting imminent ecological collapse, resource depletion, and widespread famine. >click to read< 13:15  […]

    Reply

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