Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot
Container City: Shipping containers, indispensable tool of the globalized consumer economy, reflect the skyline in Singapore, one of the world’s busiest ports.
Nate Silver took to Reddit on Tuesday and invited its denizens to “ask [him] anything.” The online Q&A revealed a little of the man behind the “wizard.”
Silver admitted he is sometimes tempted by, but wouldn’t act on, the desire to use his prediction methods to profit from election betting markets (which are heavily influenced by his predictions):
Tempted, yes, but sometimes resisting temptation is a good thing.
He explained that he would like to make his methodology more open to readers of his FiveThirtyEight NYT blog:
I’d certainly like to aim to increase the level of disclosure at 538 going forward. Sometimes what happens is that I have best intentions to write a super detailed, 5000-word methodology post, and then some senate candidate does or says something stupid, and I get caught up in the news cycle and it gets forgotten about. Which is a pretty lame excuse, I know.
He told questioners that his statistical analysis is particularly well suited to certain aspects of politics — notably presidential elections — but cannot be used to predict the outcome of many political debates, such as gun control. When asked if he could predict whether gun control would make America safer or not, he answered:
It’s a tricky problem, statistically. The issue is that while gun ownership rates could plausibly be a cause of fatal crimes and accidents, it can also be a reaction to it, i.e. people purchase guns because they feel unsafe. I’m not saying that the issue is intrinsically inscrutable. But it’s something that more requires a PhD-thesis-level treatment than a blog post to really add much insight, I think.
Silver admitted that in the run-up to the election, when pundits were questioning his predictions, he would less frequently stress the uncertainty of his models:
At some point in the last few weeks of the election, I guess I decided to lean into the upside outcome a little bit in terms of pushing back at the pundits in my public appearances — as opposed to emphasizing the uncertainty in the model, as I had for most of the year. (Nothing about the model design itself changed — just how I tended to talk about it.)
Stupid poker analogy: part of playing well is in maximizing the amount of value you get from a hand in the event that things go well, in addition to mitigating your losses if they don’t.
And he also noted that politics involves more delusion than sports. When asked which is more frustrating to analyze, he responded:
Politics. I don’t think it’s close. Between the pundits and the partisans, you’re dealing with a lot of very delusional people. And sports provides for much more frequent reality checks. In politics, you can go on being delusional for years at a time.
Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email email@example.com.More Natasha Lennard.
Man Covering His Mouth: A shepherd by the Yellow River cannot stand the smell, Inner Mongolia, China
Angry Crowd: People jostle for food relief distribution following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti
“Black Friday” Shoppers: Aggressive bargain hunters push through the front doors of the Boise Towne Square mall as they are opened at 1 a.m. Friday, Nov. 24, 2007, Boise, Idaho, USA
Suburban Sprawl: aerial view of landscape outside Miami, Florida, shows 13 golf courses amongst track homes on the edge of the Everglades.
Toxic Landscape: Aerial view of the tar sands region, where mining operations and tailings ponds are so vast they can be seen from outer space; Alberta, Canada
Ice Waterfall: In both the Arctic and Antarctic regions, ice is retreating. Melting water on icecap, North East Land, Svalbard, Norway
Satellite Dishes: The rooftops of Aleppo, Syria, one of the world’s oldest cities, are covered with satellite dishes, linking residents to a globalized consumer culture.
Child Brides: Tahani, 8, is seen with her husband Majed, 27, and her former classmate Ghada, 8, and her husband in Hajjah, Yemen, July 26, 2010.
Megalopolis: Shanghai, China, a sprawling megacity of 24 Million
Big Hole: The Mir Mine in Russia is the world’s largest diamond mine.
Clear-cut: Industrial forestry degrading public lands, Willamette National Forest, Oregon
Computer Dump: Massive quantities of waste from obsolete computers and other electronics are typically shipped to the developing world for sorting and/or disposal. Photo from Accra, Ghana.
Oil Spill Fire: Aerial view of an oil fire following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, Gulf of Mexico
Airplane Contrails: Globalized transportation networks, especially commercial aviation, are a major contributor of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Photo of contrails in the west London sky over the River Thames, London, England.
Fire: More frequent and more intense wildfires (such as this one in Colorado, USA) are another consequence of a warming planet.