Thursday, May 5, 2011

Expert Blogging

I recently wrote a few lines about the need to be able to identify expert bloggers to help non-experts weed out bad information in social networks. There's an interesting article in today's Financial Times on the effect of social networking on access to information. If you're like me, and you don't have a subscription to FT, you can read the excerpts and additional commentary by Roger Pielke, Jr..

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Wise decisions and predictions

Daniel Sarewitz is a leader in the Science-Policy interface area, and last year he had this to say in an opinion piece in Nature last year:

If wise decisions depended on accurate predictions, then in most areas of human endeavour wise decisions would be impossible. Indeed, predictions may even be an impediment to wisdom. They can narrow the view of the future, drawing attention to some conditions, events and timescales at the expense of others, thereby narrowing response options and flexibility as well.

Would “projections” also lead to the same trap? According to Kevin Trenbarth, the difference is that a projection makes no effort to start from the actual initial state of the system, and so all that can be evaluated is the change from the assumed initial state. As a result, there is no expectation on the part of the “projector” that the projection will actually come to pass. In contrast, a prediction is made in the expectation that the future will look similar to the prediction, although as far as I can tell, the same tools are used for both. Intriguingly this is yet a third way to define the difference between a projection and a prediction. Either way, I think predictions and projections run the risks described by Sarewitz.