Just-off-on-Timing

by F.

This defense amounts to saying, “Sure, I might have, technically, been wrong—but just you wait! I’ll be vindicated.” Unlike yesterday’s defense, this one is not counterfactual. From Expert Political Judgment:

Experts often insist that, although the predicted outcome has yet to occur, we just need to be patient: it will eventually. This defense is limited, of course, in its applicability to political games in which the predicted outcome has not yet been irreversibly foreclosed. No one expected Al Gore to take George W. Bush’s place in the White House in 2001. Some deals are done deals. But [in Tetlock’s study] experts did often argue that a trend they deemed likely has merely been delayed and that Canada will still distintegrate…, Kazakhstan will ultimately fall into a Yugoslav-style conflagration…, the European Monetary Union’s misguided effort to create a common currency will someday end in tears and acrimony…, and…nuclear war will eventually be the tragic fate of South Asia or the Korean peninsula.

So, when confronted with a mistake, point out that you were just off on timing: it’ll happen. If pressed on when, exactly, waive your hands: “Well, I can’t give you exact dates, but I’d say in the near term. Near to medium term. At worst, I’d say medium to long term.”

This reminds me of how many times since 2000 I’ve heard people say Sun Microsystems is “on its last legs” or is “circling the drain,” implying that sun would go belly up “real soon now.” Of course, in the long run Sun is dead. But in the long run we’re all dead.

Advertisements