March 26, 2009

Learning How to Think -Nicholas Kristof

Mr. Kristof seems to be on a roll on the issue of bias. A few days ago he wrote consumers seek slanted news because we want information that lines up with our biases. I argued earlier with a friend that consumers are fed biased news from biased pundits, editors and talking heads.

I agree with Kristof that these so-called, often self-proclaimed experts and prognosticators should be held to account. The problem is: are there people unbiased enough to do so objectively? He leads with a mea culpa... a good start.

"The marketplace of ideas for now doesn’t clear out bad pundits and bad ideas partly because there’s no accountability. We trumpet our successes and ignore failures — or else attempt to explain that the failure doesn’t count because the situation changed or that we were basically right but the timing was off.

For example, I boast about having warned in 2002 and 2003 that Iraq would be a violent mess after we invaded. But I tend to make excuses for my own incorrect forecast in early 2007 that the troop “surge” would fail.

So what about a system to evaluate us prognosticators? Professor Tetlock suggests that various foundations might try to create a “trans-ideological Consumer Reports for punditry,” monitoring and evaluating the records of various experts and pundits as a public service. I agree: Hold us accountable!"
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