Peter Lazaroff

Peter Lazaroff

January 11, 2022

Why Expert Predictions Are Bullsh*t

Our brains constantly create narratives to make sense of the world around us. The narratives we desire fuel our interest in predictions.

Meanwhile, our memories morph with each passing day, much like the distortion that occurs when children play telephone — the message mutating a little bit each time one person whispers it to the next.

Professional experts know that we make up stories about the world around us and don't remember the past accurately.

Our flawed, incomplete memories of past predictions keep us coming back for more. Old predictions are old news. We move on and forget.

Professional experts know that there’s no demand for accountability. They prey on the fact that people just want a story that helps make sense of the world around them.

That’s why…

Experts make countless predictions using hedging verbiage.

Using words such as may, could, might, or potentially allows experts to claim credit when something happens and dodge blame when it doesn't.

Experts use precise explanations of past events in a manner that makes the past seem inevitable.

Linear of explanations such as "A caused B, B caused C, and as a result C caused D" create the illusion of understanding how the world works, which makes them seem more able to predict the future.

Experts give answers, not nuance.

The best predictions assign probabilities to a range of different outcomes, but that's not what people want. They want clarity and experts provide it.

Traditional and digital media magnifies the problem.

The media makes money by capturing and holding their audience’s attention, so there’s no incentive to offer objective or balanced opinions.

They choose their experts accordingly and prefer viewpoints that can be easily packaged into a quick sound bite, video clip, or tweet.

If it confirms our existing beliefs, we immediately buy in and maybe even share it with friends. If it conflicts with our priors, we cast it aside without having spent much time consuming it.

Forecasts are a form of entertainment.

There is no way to accurately forecast the future. Consuming forecasts for entertainment is relatively harmless, but letting them inform your investment decisions is dangerous.

You’re far better off ignoring the noise and focusing on things you can control. That’s where you can make a real difference in your finances.

The rest is bullshit.