Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The "New Nostradamus"

Can Mathematics predict the future?

If you listen to Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, and a lot of people don't, he'll claim that mathematics can tell you the future. In fact, the professor says that a computer model he built and has perfected over the last 25 years can predict the outcome of virtually any international conflict, provided the basic input is accurate. What's more, his predictions are alarmingly specific. His fans include at least one current presidential hopeful, a gaggle of Fortune 500 companies, the CIA, and the Department of Defense. Naturally, there is also no shortage of people less fond of his work. "Some people think Bruce is the most brilliant foreign policy analyst there is," says one colleague. "Others think he's a quack."

Anybody remember Harry Seldon? Nothing follows.


Blogger LarryD said...

"... provided the basic input is accurate."

But it never is.

10/30/2007 12:36:00 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

The Galactic Encyclopedia & psycho-History: the ability to predict the actions of millions through mathmatic formulae. hari seldom who would reappear at critical junctures in predicted history....He LIVES.....Asimov would be so...scared?

10/30/2007 12:40:00 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

Actually that should be Hari Seldon...caps and spelling...where's the spell button check when you need it? Should have paid attention in Sister Dominque's typing class back in 1970.

10/30/2007 12:43:00 PM  
Blogger Asher Abrams said...

Interesting that Asimov himself never believed the "psycho-history" theory that was the premise of the Foundation books. He just thought it'd make a good story.

10/30/2007 12:47:00 PM  
Blogger Carey said...

Any presidential candidate could do alot worse than listening to Bruce Bueno.

If I remember his course correctly, it isn't the math that predicts the future, its the past and the present. The math was pretty straightforward statistics.

Then again, "straightforward statistics" is probably an oxymoron.

10/30/2007 02:31:00 PM  
Blogger Carey said...

Oh, and anyone who is criticized by Walt and Mearsheimer gets my vote.

10/30/2007 02:54:00 PM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...

Does the article suggest that he has 97% accuracy? If so isn't the proof in the pudding?

10/30/2007 03:55:00 PM  
Blogger Peter Grynch said...

It turns out that even with the newest supercomputers, weather forcasting is only accurate for the next three days. The problem is that it is impossible to accurately model cloud formations, and these are such an important determinant that the accuracy of weather predictions falls off a cliff.

Weather is a relatively straightforward process. Trying to predict outcomes of complex human interactions is orders of magnitude more difficult.

Look at the difference on the ground in Iraq that resulted just from putting General Petraus in charge. Could that have been predicted mathamatically?

10/30/2007 04:12:00 PM  
Blogger Neo Conservative said...

you want some real freaky numbers?


10/30/2007 07:20:00 PM  
Blogger Towering Barbarian said...

larryd: '"... provided the basic input is accurate."

But it never is.'

Quoted for great truth! ^_^

G.I.G.O. ^_~

Anyone remember the Club of Rome and how well *their* computer models worked out? o_O

10/30/2007 08:21:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

Hari Seldon...yak did I ever love the Foundation Trilogy when I was of a certain age in NYC.

I went to see Lee Bolinger talk to Columbia alumni this evening in the ronald reagan building in downtown washington dc. Bolinger set a goal of raising 4 billion dollars for columbia's endowment and reached two billion before his Iranian escapade. Then alumni called and said they'd never give a dime to columbia again. So now he feels its his duty to answer angry questions from the alumni.

Bolinger sounded like he was talking to people who listened to cbs news every night & read the washington post/new york times regularly. I didn't think the audience was that way at all.

Like Asimov I think there are civilizational cycles. We are currently in the presence of the the death of one civilization and the birth of another. I also think that much of the new growth is at the boundary.

After coming home from watching Bolinger --he said nothing interesting and the Q&A generated a little heat and no light-- I watched a new discovery chanel series on the upcoming missions to Mars that president bush announced in the last year or so. The designer of the mission said he expected Mars to be completely terraformed by 2350. (Not 3350)

From Wikipedia:
Seldon was born in the 10th month of the 11,988th year of the Galactic Era (GE) (-79 Foundation Era (FE)) and died 12,069 GE (1 FE).

10/30/2007 11:11:00 PM  
Blogger TigerHawk said...

Why is it not surprising that The Belmont Club's readers can one-up a Foundation reference? Heh.

10/31/2007 04:26:00 AM  
Blogger Andrew Zalotocky said...

If you do want to listen to BBdM, try the podcasts here and here.

10/31/2007 06:11:00 AM  
Blogger BrianFH said...

It's all in the algorithms, which consist of equations and variables. The computer just extrapolates them. That weather forecasting is weak does not say anything about Rational Choice modelling.

10/31/2007 01:44:00 PM  

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