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re: Brin: predictions

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  • d.brin
    Someone recently pointed to the Technovelgy Site - a very cool attempt to cite technological predictions made in sci fi novels.
    Message 1 of 9 , Nov 1, 2005
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      Someone recently pointed to the <b>Technovelgy Site</b> - a very
      cool attempt to cite technological predictions made in sci fi novels.
      (http://www.technovelgy.com) This is nothing like the systematic
      approach to registering predictions that I am urging but it certainly
      is a step... though a glance at my own entry seems fairly skimpy,
      given that Earth just had its 14th predictive "hit".

      <i>(Alert! Danger! Egomaniacal preening is about to begin!)</i>
      Right off the bat I can think of plenty of other items that someone
      (ahem) might suggest to the site manager. (I think they also want to
      cite an actual passage from the book, making this process more
      complex and too time consuming even for an egotist like me, alas.)
      For example:

      Subvocal user-computer interface shown in EARTH (1989) which NASA
      reports inventing in 2003.

      Personality profiling (SUNDIVER) which is now a hot topic using PET
      scanning... though no one is using yet the inherently superior method
      of eye-tracking.

      Uplift genetic engineering of animals (um....)

      WOM or Write Only Memory (Brightness Reef) a recording device that
      is required to be carried on all ships or cars, that cannot be read
      until the owner releases the information, or for an extended time.

      Predictions Registry (EARTH) hey, might as well get credit for this, too.

      EMILYPOST viral politeness programs (EARTH) target rude internet users.

      Information sieves (EARTH) - programs that sift the Net for content
      according to your tastes and priorities, learning as they go. They
      can either enhance productivity or be used to exclude all incoming
      information that might disagree with your favorite illusions. (Sound
      like Rush dittoheads?)

      Illusion-<i>breaker</i> programs that pierce these sieves and force
      Net users to perceive news or opinions outside their tailor-made
      perception range. (EARTH)

      Hostage Gas (Uplift War) forces a population to voluntarily go to
      internment camps in order to get antidotes to a toxin.

      Waldo Whale (Sundiver) lets a human swim like a dolphin or orca.

      Waldo walker and tools (Startide Rising) allows dolphins to move and
      work outside of water.

      Needle-Gym - A simulation-exercise room with needle floor
      ("NatuLife"). A million needles on the bottom of a tiny, closet-size
      "exercise room" rise and fall to simulate any ground or surface, from
      a street to forest trail, acting also like a treadmill, so that you
      can run and feel under your feet any surface that the computer shows
      you in your simulation goggles.

      Tether space station. A station in two parts, separated by a 100
      mile tether, will orbit the Earth in a way that aligns along a
      radius, deriving "gravity gradient" forces that let liquids settle
      and provides a sense of up and down. ("Tank Farm".)

      A Womb with a View. Intra-utero teaching unit. Installed to help a
      fetus learn before birth and get a leg-up on other pre-pre
      preschoolers. ("Dr. Pak's Preschool")

      Fabricows - cattle and other creatures that create gene-designed
      biomachinery in their wombs. Also complex synthetic chemicals
      instead of milk. Poor women might also do this, creating
      super-advanced organic entities the old fashioned way. ("Piecework").

      GAZER or gravity laser (EARTH) uses singularity "mirrors" to tap the
      higher energy levels within the Earth and emit tuned, focused,
      coherent graviton beams.

      I just dashed these off. Any others occur at a thought? Anybody
      care to compile and tell these guys? (I guess this topic thread can
      be continued here while we move on.) Hey, these days, below a
      certain level of fame, you gotta do your own $$#@! preening.
      _______________________________________________
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    • The Fool
      ... to find the best investors in the world and then track, analyze, and evaluate their trading activity. (I m going to get my son an account.) At
      Message 2 of 9 , Nov 1, 2005
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        > From: d.brin <dbrin@...>

        >>1. Marketocracy Data Services is a research company whose mission is
        to find the best investors in the world and then track, analyze, and
        evaluate their trading activity. (I'm going to get my son an account.)
        At www.marketocracy.com folks compete to become the best investors. For
        over 3 years they have tracked, analyzed, and evaluated their virtual
        trading activity and have accumulated a massive database; following
        over 10,000 stock positions at any one time and more than four million
        trades. Marketocracy constantly analyzes and ranks the stock picking
        ability of members using a complex algorithm that incorporates long and
        short-term performance, as well as an attribution analysis that
        accounts for market, sector, style, and trading contribution so that
        they can isolate comparative returns.

        These guys appear to be the closest to the real thing so far. You could
        squint and imagine their software and approach being applied on a much
        broader scale to predictions across a huge range of topic areas, from
        politics to sports... and even to science. If I ever find time, I may
        try to contact them about this possibility. I can think of few
        endeavors that have greater potential for helping a society in flx,
        than to come up with methodologies for identifying people who are right
        a lot... and those who are too often wrong to deserve our credibility
        and trust

        ---
        Holy incestuous Feedback Batman!

        It'll never work. Heisenberg had it right.
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      • The Fool
        ... Possibly. Or is it that some people are wrong more often than other people? The people who tend to be right have this habit of also tending to be
        Message 3 of 9 , Nov 1, 2005
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          > From: David Brin <dbrin@...>
          >
          >
          > > Holy incestuous Feedback Batman!
          > >
          > > It'll never work. Heisenberg had it right.
          >
          >
          > SO you are saying that nobody is right more often than
          > other people?

          Possibly. Or is it that some people are wrong more often than other
          people? The people who tend to be right have this habit of also
          tending to be ignored. The people who tend to be wrong tend to not be
          ignored.

          >
          > Or that some people do not deserve more credibility
          > than others, for being right more often? Hm. Unique.

          I was mostly reffering to the bit from the first paragraph about the
          markets. But it's similar. You can't know you're right until after
          the fact, in which case you can't predict who will be right without
          effecting positively or negatively whether they will be right. All of
          society is one big nested group of nested feedback cycles (a human is
          really just a system of feedback systems).

          It reminds me of this one episode of Logans Run where this guy invents
          time travel and comes to the future, but the future is that dystopia of
          the Logans Run Movie / Tv Series. So he goes back in time in order to
          try and prevent that future dystopia from happening. In the end it
          turns out that his very going back to try prevent it was what caused it
          to happen.

          But I digress, I was mostly reffering to the market bit.
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        • David Brin
          ... SO you are saying that nobody is right more often than other people? Or that some people do not deserve more credibility than others, for being right more
          Message 4 of 9 , Nov 1, 2005
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            > Holy incestuous Feedback Batman!
            >
            > It'll never work. Heisenberg had it right.


            SO you are saying that nobody is right more often than
            other people?

            Or that some people do not deserve more credibility
            than others, for being right more often? Hm. Unique.
            _______________________________________________
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          • The Fool
            ... But it is also true that the attention some people get affect whether what they say happens or not. Incestuous feedback. So if you start pegging person
            Message 5 of 9 , Nov 1, 2005
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              > From: David Brin <dbrin@...>
              >
              > I agree that most market computer models wind up
              > screwing themselves because the market has an immune
              > reaction, adapting to one participant's success.
              >
              > Still, some people are right a LOT more than others.

              But it is also true that the attention some people get affect whether
              what they say happens or not. Incestuous feedback. So if you start
              pegging person A of being slightly more right than offen than people
              will start treating A's thoughts as if they should be right which leads
              straight to him being slightly more right more often. Wash and repeat.

              But what if Person A's ideas are flawed or bad in some way and he
              starts getting treated as if his ideas are genius? Like say...Marx.
              Or the people who invented that Yeshua of Nazereth character?

              > Past performance does not predict future success. But
              > it is relevant to competance.

              I think this is incorrect, hence my counterexamples above. I think
              competence can be unrelated.

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            • David Brin
              I agree that most market computer models wind up screwing themselves because the market has an immune reaction, adapting to one participant s success. Still,
              Message 6 of 9 , Nov 1, 2005
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                I agree that most market computer models wind up
                screwing themselves because the market has an immune
                reaction, adapting to one participant's success.

                Still, some people are right a LOT more than others.
                Past performance does not predict future success. But
                it is relevant to competance.
                _______________________________________________
                http://www.mccmedia.com/mailman/listinfo/brin-l
              • Dan Minette
                ... From: David Brin To: Killer Bs Discussion Sent: Tuesday, November 01, 2005 3:53 PM Subject: Re: Brin:
                Message 7 of 9 , Nov 3, 2005
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                  ----- Original Message -----
                  From: "David Brin" <dbrin@...>
                  To: "Killer Bs Discussion" <brin-l@...>
                  Sent: Tuesday, November 01, 2005 3:53 PM
                  Subject: Re: Brin: predictions


                  >
                  > > Holy incestuous Feedback Batman!
                  > >
                  > > It'll never work. Heisenberg had it right.
                  >
                  >
                  > SO you are saying that nobody is right more often than
                  > other people?
                  >
                  > Or that some people do not deserve more credibility
                  > than others, for being right more often? Hm. Unique.

                  I think that the problem with such a technique is properly identifying the
                  statistics associated with being right n times out of m. Let me give two
                  examples that frame the problem.

                  1) Let us consider a single elimination tournament based on coin flipping.
                  Person 1 flips a coin. If person 2 matches the flip, they win; otherwise
                  person 1 wins. If there 2^16 people entered in the tournament, there will
                  be one person who won 16 times in a row. This person, with a perfect
                  score, is no more likely to win the next coin flip game than anyone else.

                  A real life situation that almost matches this is the performance of
                  various investment funds. There are funds that boast of being better than
                  the average of all other funds for 9 years out of the last 10. Yet, when
                  funds like these are examined, they tend to have no more chance of being
                  above the average for the 11th to 15th year than any of the other funds.
                  It's akin to there being a 50-50 chance that a given physician was in the
                  bottom half of his/her class at medical school. Past performance is, when
                  considering funds in this manner, rarely an indicator of future
                  performance.

                  There are exceptions to this rule, of course, a very good case for Buffet
                  can be made: that he really does know more about investing than most fund
                  managers. His performance is longer term, and more statistically
                  significant.

                  2) Richard Feynman is the classic example that I have for the other end of
                  the spectrum. As with many areas of physics, Dr. Feynman made a rough
                  guess predicting the rapidity distribution of pions in high energy
                  interactions. Feynman scaling was found to be right, to the order of
                  magnitude that he predicted this.

                  As you know, but many on the list do not, he made many intuitive
                  predictions, such as this, after he was a high profile physicist. If you
                  look at the predictions made by physicists with a high profile, you will
                  see his stand out. The percentage of times he "guessed right" was near
                  legendary when I went to school. There was a rule of thumb that a Feynman
                  guess was worth more than careful computation by nearly anyone else.

                  My gut feeling is that an open prediction registry will be closer to the
                  funds manager case than the Feynman case. I think a critical factor is
                  limiting the number of potential candidates for being right. There are not
                  that many physicists who have already done stand-out work. Thus, we do not
                  have enough predictions to have a track record like Feynman emerge from
                  mere chance.

                  In economics, the clear example is Greenspan. List member and fairly well
                  known economist, Brad DeLong, has noted how often Greenspan has guessed
                  right when he himself has guessed wrong. He talked about cloning Greenspan
                  because he has an uncanny ability to "guess right".

                  Since there is only one chairman of the Fed. Reserve Board at any one time,
                  this track record cannot be explained by statistics alone. There has to be
                  some skill that Greenspan has that Brad does not. Brad acknowledges the
                  skill, but cannot put his finger on exactly what it is.

                  The common denominator that I see between Greenspan and Feynman is that
                  they demonstrated, apart from their intuitive ability, above average skill
                  in the field before many their guesses went on record. This culling
                  significantly lowers the possibility that such a track record is due to
                  chance alone. This allows those with unique intuition to rise above the
                  background of lucky guessers.

                  The final factor that I wish to consider is what I'd call the "astrology"
                  factor. If you look at general predictions of astrology for most people,
                  there will almost always be a manner in which the predictions were right.
                  The reason for this is not due to a real power of the planets over our
                  lives, of course, but the real power of people to match vague predictions
                  to what actually happened and thus see the predictions validated. In the
                  case of Feynman and Greenspan, there were hard numbers that their
                  predictions can be matched against. I believe that aspects of science
                  fiction novels that are later matched to reality can suffer from the same
                  "20-20 hindsight" problem. The parts of the prediction that match are
                  focused upon, and the differences are minimized. Thus, the predictions
                  seem more accurate than they really were.

                  So, while I am intrigued by the idea of a predictions registry, I think
                  that there are two factors that must be considered before such a registry
                  could really be useful.

                  1) A means of lowering the probability that good looking track records will
                  emerge from chance alone.
                  2) A means of setting firm criteria for determining sucess (which of course
                  ties into 1).

                  Dan M.

                  _______________________________________________
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                • The Fool
                  ... astrology ... people, ... right. ... our ... predictions ... the ... science ... same ... are ... predictions ... AKA Subjective Validation, Confirmation
                  Message 8 of 9 , Nov 3, 2005
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                    > From: Dan Minette <dsummersminet@...>
                    >
                    > From: "David Brin" <dbrin@...>
                    >
                    > >
                    > > > Holy incestuous Feedback Batman!
                    > > >
                    > > > It'll never work. Heisenberg had it right.
                    > >
                    > >
                    > > SO you are saying that nobody is right more often than
                    > > other people?
                    > >
                    > > Or that some people do not deserve more credibility
                    > > than others, for being right more often? Hm. Unique.
                    >
                    >
                    > The final factor that I wish to consider is what I'd call the
                    "astrology"
                    > factor. If you look at general predictions of astrology for most
                    people,
                    > there will almost always be a manner in which the predictions were
                    right.
                    > The reason for this is not due to a real power of the planets over
                    our
                    > lives, of course, but the real power of people to match vague
                    predictions
                    > to what actually happened and thus see the predictions validated. In
                    the
                    > case of Feynman and Greenspan, there were hard numbers that their
                    > predictions can be matched against. I believe that aspects of
                    science
                    > fiction novels that are later matched to reality can suffer from the
                    same
                    > "20-20 hindsight" problem. The parts of the prediction that match
                    are
                    > focused upon, and the differences are minimized. Thus, the
                    predictions
                    > seem more accurate than they really were.

                    AKA Subjective Validation, Confirmation Bias, and the Forer Effect:

                    <<http://skepdic.com/forer.html>>

                    <<http://skepdic.com/confirmbias.html>>

                    <<http://skepdic.com/subjectivevalidation.html>>

                    And of course the for lack of better term the "nodding" effect:
                    <<http://www.futurepundit.com/archives/001505.html>>
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                  • Nick Arnett
                    Perhaps a better question is, are some *communities* right more often than most? ... -- Nick Arnett narnett@mccmedia.com Messages: 408-904-7198
                    Message 9 of 9 , Nov 3, 2005
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                      Perhaps a better question is, are some *communities* right more often than
                      most?

                      On 11/1/05, David Brin <dbrin@...> wrote:
                      >
                      > I agree that most market computer models wind up
                      > screwing themselves because the market has an immune
                      > reaction, adapting to one participant's success.
                      >
                      > Still, some people are right a LOT more than others.
                      > Past performance does not predict future success. But
                      > it is relevant to competance.
                      > _______________________________________________
                      > http://www.mccmedia.com/mailman/listinfo/brin-l
                      >



                      --
                      Nick Arnett
                      narnett@...
                      Messages: 408-904-7198
                      _______________________________________________
                      http://www.mccmedia.com/mailman/listinfo/brin-l
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