Arquivo da tag: Humor

Novo vocalista do Queen pede frutas cítricas, 50 toalhas brancas e o espírito de Freddie Mercury (Sensacionalista)

19 de setembro de 2015

Vencedor do American Idol e convidado para ser a voz do Queen, no lugar do saudoso Freddie Mercury, o americano (poxa, não dava pra pelo menos ser britânico?) Adam Lambert fez algumas exigências em seu camarim nesta noite de estreia no Rock in Rio: frutas cítricas como laranja e limão, uvas verdes, 50 toalhas brancas, jujubas em forma de ursinho – só vermelhas – e o espírito de Freddie Mercury baixando sobre ele no palco.

Diante do pedido, a prefeitura do Rio acionou os médiuns da Cacique Cobra Coral – os mesmos que não deixam chover no réveillon do Rio – para tentar chama o espirito do eterno vocalista do Queen. Até agora não obtiveram êxito.

Anúncios

Memes ironizam previsão de temporal no Rio nesta quinta-feira (G1)

05/02/2015 17h15 – Atualizado em 05/02/2015 21h53

‘Ciclone In Rio’ e ‘Chuva no Rio #VemGente’ foram criados no Facebook.
Prefeitura montou esquema especial para enfrentar chuva que estava prevista.

Do G1 Rio

Memes da chuva no Rio (Foto: Reprodução de internet)

No Facebook, um evento simulanto o Rock In Rio, com o tema ‘Ciclone in Rio, Eu Fui’ também foi criado (Foto: Reprodução de internet)

A forte chuva que foi prevista por meteorologistas para cair na tarde desta quinta-feira (5) deixou muitos cariocas em alerta. A ausência de um grande temporal até as 20h, no entanto, inspirou os internautas que, desde a manhã, encheram as redes sociais de memes relacionados aos transtornos que seriam causados pela chuva.

No Facebook, pelo menos dois eventos foram criados. O “Ciclone In Rio” e o “Chuva no Rio #VemGente”. Na internet, também circulam fotos com a modelo Nana Gouveia posando perto de pessoas que, em outras situações, se refugiaram da chuva.

No Twitter, o personagem fictício Dilma Bolada, uma sátira da presidente, disse que decidiu mandar a chuva para Brasília. “Mandei desviar o ciclone do Rio de Janeiro para o Congresso Nacional. A cidade maravilhosa não merece uma coisa dessas!”. Na mesma rede social, internautas fazem diversas ironias como: “O governador Pezão acabou de anunciar que a chuva no Rio foi cancelada por questões de falta de água”.

No Twitter, internautas ironizam a chuva (Foto: Reprodução/Twitter)

No Twitter, internautas ironizam a chuva (Foto: Reprodução/Twitter)

Alerta pela manhã
Pela manhã, a Prefeitura do Rio apresentou um esquema especial elaborado por diversos órgãos do município para enfrentar a chuva. Cerca de 3,2 mil agentes foram mobilizados no esquema.

A cidade entrou em estágio de atenção às 6h50, afirmou o prefeito Eduardo Paes durante uma coletiva de imprensa no Centro de Operações Rio, no Centro. O estágio de atenção é o segundo nível em uma escala de três e significa a possibilidade de chuva moderada, ocasionalmente forte.

Chuva no Rio 3 (Foto: Reprodução/Twitter)

Chuva no Rio 6 (Foto: Reprodução/Twitter)

 

Chuva no Rio 8 (Foto: Reprodução/Twitter)

Chuva no Rio (Foto: Reprodução/Twitter)

Chuva no Rio 15 (Foto: Reprodução/Twitter)

Chuva no Rio 7 (Foto: Reprodução/Twitter)

Memes da chuva no Rio (Foto: Reprodução de internet)

Meme brinca com o Cristo Redentor (Foto: Reprodução / Twitter)

Meme brinca com o Cristo Redentor (Foto: Reprodução / Twitter)

Brincadeiras como ator Tony Tornado (Foto: Reprodução/Facebook)

Brincadeiras como ator Tony Tornado (Foto: Reprodução/Facebook)

Diversos memes se espalharam pela web por conta da chuva (Foto: Reprodução/Facebook)

Diversos memes se espalharam pela web por conta da chuva (Foto: Reprodução/Facebook)

Memes da chuva no Rio (Foto: Reprodução de internet)

A modelo Nana Gouveia não escapou das piadas na internet em memes sobre a chuva no Rio (Foto: Reprodução de internet)

Prefeito do Rio diz que foi zombado até pelos filhos após previsão falhar (G1)

06/02/2015 10h22 – Atualizado em 06/02/2015 17h34

Eduardo Paes diz que procedimento para chuva forte será padrão. Piscinões para conter alagamento na Praça da Bandeira serão inaugurados.

Henrique Coelho Do G1 Rio

Prefeito Eduardo Paes garantiu que procedimento contra chuvas fortes se tornará padrão na cidade. (Foto: Henrique Coelho / G1)

Prefeito Eduardo Paes garantiu que procedimento contra chuvas fortes se tornará padrão na cidade. (Foto: Henrique Coelho / G1)

Mesmo após uma chuva menos intensa que o previsto nesta quinta-feira (5), a Prefeitura do Rio  afirmou que vai continuar adotando os mesmos procedimentos com a previsão de uma chuva e ventos fortes.

“As pessoas sempre pedem planejamento, e ainda bem que não aconteceu nada. Mas vamos continuar fazendo isso porque não podemos deixar de dividir as informações que temos com a população”, disse o prefeito Eduardo Paes, que levou na esportiva as brincadeiras publicadas em redes sociais após as chuvas. “Até meus filhos zombaram de mim hoje de manhã, mas eu entendo. Não tenho vocação para Cacique Cobra Coral”, brincou.

Nesta quinta-feira, a Prefeitura do Rio apresentou um esquema especial elaborado por diversos órgãos do município para enfrentar a situação. Cerca de 3,2 mil agentes foram mobilizados no esquema.

“Vamos continuar com o mesmo esquema, com homens da Comlurb, da Guarda municipal, Cet-Rio”, afirmou, acrescentando que quatro novos piscinões na área da Praça da Bandeira, um dos principais pontos de alagamento da cidade, serão inaugurados neste sábado (7).  “Não levamos a sério algumas coisas no passado, e agora vamos ficar sempre atentos”.

Paes criticou ainda o fato de algumas empresas liberarem seus funcionários mais cedo devido à ameaça de chuva forte. “O dia que for para sair mais cedo, nós vamos avisar”, disparou.

Em sua página pessoal no Facebook, Eduardo Paes reiterou que a prefeitura irá manter os alertas quando houver previsão de temporal. No texto, além de comentar o deboche dos próprios filhos, ele falou da seriedade ao tratar da possibilidade de chuva forte na capital.

“A gente já viu muito drama nesta cidade em razão das chuvas, muita gente morrendo e perdendo o seu patrimônio. O que tenho que afirmar é que isso deve passar a ser algo costumeiro na vida da gente. Toda vez que a gente der um alerta desse, as pessoas devem ficar atentas, como pedi ontem”, registrou o prefeito.

saiba mais

Why it’s good to laugh at climate change (The Guardian)

Climate gags are notable by their absence, but an RSA event on Tuesday night hopes to show that climate change comedy can raise laughs and awareness

Marcus Brigstocke will perform on tonight RSA live stream ;event : Seven Serious Jokes About Climate Change

Marcus Brigstocke will perform an RSA live stream event tonight: Seven Serious Jokes About Climate Change. Photograph: Andrew Aitchison/Corbis

Did you hear the one about the climate policy analyst? Or the polar bear who walked into a bar?

Climate change is not generally considered a source of amusement: in terms of comedic material, the forecast is an ongoing cultural drought. But perhaps campaigners have missed a trick in overlooking the powerful role that satire and subversion can play in social change. Could humour cut through the malaise that has smothered the public discourse, activating our cultural antennae in a way that graphs, infographics and images of melting ice could never do?

This is the challenge that a panel of British comedians, including Marcus Brigstocke – a seasoned climate humourist, will take up at an event on Tuesday evening hosted by the RSA and the Climate Outreach and Information Network in London (the event is fully booked but it will be streamed live online). Maybe laughing about something as serious as climate change is just another form of denial. But perhaps its relative absence from the comedy realm is another warning sign: despite decades of awareness raising, the cultural footprint of climate change is faint, fragile and all-too-easily ignored.

The first example of a climate-policy parody was probably the ‘Cheat Neutral’ project: a slick spoof of the logic of carbon offsetting whereby people could pay someone else to be faithful, giving them the opportunity to cheat on their husband or wife. And there have other good video mockeries – including onewarning that wind farms will blow the Earth off-orbit – which have captured the comedy potential of bizarre debates about energy policy.

This year, Greenpeace teamed up with the surreal comedian Reggie Watts to promote the idea of a 100% renewably powered internet. There have been sporadic examples of climate change ‘stand-up’. And the ever-reliable Simpsonshas been occasionally willing to engage.

Reggie Watts yodels for a wind-powered internet.

But these are the exceptions that prove the rule: for the most part, climate gags are notable by their absence.

An ongoing challenge is the polarised nature of the climate debate, with climate scepticism closely pegged to political ideology. According to Nick Comer-Calder, of the Climate Media Net, getting people laughing is a good first step to getting them talking – even across political divides. One analysisfound that major US satirists, such as Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert, have given more coverage to climate change than many of the news channels – although admittedly, this is a pretty low bar to clear.

But while online ridicule directed towards climate ‘deniers’ (generally portrayed as either too stupid to understand the science, or as conspiracy theorists) may appeal to the usual crowd, its hard to see how this kind of approach will breach the political divide. After all, the feeling of being laughed at by a sneering, left-leaning elite is not appealing. One notorious attempt by the 10:10 campaign and director Richard Curtis at ‘humorously’ marginalising opposition towards environmentalism backfired completely. It turns out that most people don’t find graphic depictions of children’s heads exploding all that hilarious after all…

What’s required is for climate change to seep into the fabric of satirical and humourous TV programming, in the same way that other ‘current affairs’ often provide the backdrop and context for creative output. Jokes ‘about’ climate change can in fact be ‘about’ any of the dozens of subjects – family disputes over energy bills, travel and tourism, or changing consumer habits – that are directly impacted by climate change.

Its an interesting irony that while the ‘pro-climate’ discourse can often feel po-faced and pious, climate sceptics have wasted no time in parodying the climate community. The Heretic, a play by Richard Bean, built its dramatic tension around the conflict between a sceptical climate scientist and her cynical departmental head who is suppressing her data in order to keep his grants flowing. The characters are overdrawn and instantly recognisable. And, as a result, it works: it is good drama, entertaining, and laugh-out-loud funny.

While climate change itself is never going to be a barrel of laughs, we seem to be suffering from a collective lack of imagination in teasing out the tragi-comic narratives that climate change surely provides.

Thinking harder about how to plug climate change into our cultural circuits – not as ‘edutainment’ but simply as a target of satire in its own right – will be crucial in overcoming the social silence around the issue. The science-communicators don’t seem to be making much progress with the public: maybe its time to let the comedians have their turn.

Dança da chuva em São Paulo tem 38 mil pessoas confirmadas nas redes sociais (IG)

Por iG São Paulo | 19/11/2014 12:55 – Atualizada às 19/11/2014 15:53

Ideia é mobilizar as pessoas contra a seca enfrentada no Estado. Idealizadores querem entrar para livro dos recordes

Durante uma aula da escola Miami Ad School oferecido pela Escola Superior de Propaganda e Marketing (ESPM), os alunos decidiram criar um evento nas redes sociais para conseguir atrair grande número de pessoas para uma dança da chuva que será realizada nesta sexta-feira (21), às 19h, no Masp. O evento já tem 38 mil pessoas confirmadas.

Reprodução/Facebook

Dança da chuva tem 38 mil pessoas confirmadas nas redes sociais

A dança da chuva vai ocorrer na mesma data em que a presidente da Companhia de Saneamento Básico do Estado de São Paulo (Sabesp) anunciou que acabaria a cota do volume morto.

Segundo o estudante Eduardo Lunardi, um dos idealizadores do projeto, a ideia é mobilizar o maior número de pessoas possível para uma causa tão importante como a seca enfrentada pelo Estado de São Paulo. “Com a proporção que foi tomando, nós vimos a possibilidade de fazer algo ainda maior”. A ideia do grupo é entrar para o livro dos recordes como a maior dança da chuva do mundo, batendo a da Irlanda, em 2011, que reuniu 395 pessoas.

Segundo o Instituto Nacional de Meteorologia (Inmet), existem possibilidades de pancadas de chuva no Estado na sexta-feira, por causa do ar quente e úmido. O nível do Sistema Cantareira chegou a 10,2% nesta terça-feira (18), de acordo com dados da Sabesp.

Represa do Jaguari, na cidade de Vargem, em setembro. Foto: Luiz Augusto Daidone/Prefeitura de Vargem

Some Fear Ebola Outbreak Could Make Nation Turn to Science (The New Yorker)

Borowitz Report
OCTOBER 16, 2014
BY ANDY BOROWITZ

Borowitz-Ebola-Scientists-690CREDIT PHOTOGRAPH BY WILLIAM THOMAS CAIN/GETTY

NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report)—There is a deep-seated fear among some Americans that an Ebola outbreak could make the country turn to science.

In interviews conducted across the nation, leading anti-science activists expressed their concern that the American people, wracked with anxiety over the possible spread of the virus, might desperately look to science to save the day.

“It’s a very human reaction,” said Harland Dorrinson, a prominent anti-science activist from Springfield, Missouri. “If you put them under enough stress, perfectly rational people will panic and start believing in science.”

Additionally, he worries about a “slippery slope” situation, “in which a belief in science leads to a belief in math, which in turn fosters a dangerous dependence on facts.”

At the end of the day, though, Dorrinson hopes that such a doomsday scenario will not come to pass. “Time and time again through history, Americans have been exposed to science and refused to accept it,” he said. “I pray that this time will be no different.”

Dogs can be pessimists, too (Science Daily)

Date: September 18, 2014

Source: University of Sydney

Summary: Dogs generally seem to be cheerful, happy-go-lucky characters, so you might expect that most would have an optimistic outlook on life. In fact some dogs are distinctly more pessimistic than others, new research shows.

English bulldog puppies. Some dogs are distinctly more pessimistic than others. In fact some dogs are distinctly more pessimistic than others, research from the University of Sydney shows. Credit: © B.Stefanov / Fotolia

Dogs generally seem to be cheerful, happy-go-lucky characters, so you might expect that most would have an optimistic outlook on life.

In fact some dogs are distinctly more pessimistic than others, research from the University of Sydney shows.

“This research is exciting because it measures positive and negative emotional states in dogs objectively and non-invasively. It offers researchers and dog owners an insight into the outlook of dogs and how that changes,” said Dr Melissa Starling, from the Faculty of Veterinary Science. Her PhD research findings are published in PLOS One today.

“Finding out as accurately as possible whether a particular dog is optimistic or pessimistic is particularly helpful in the context of working and service dogs and has important implications for animal welfare.”

Dogs were taught to associate two different sounds (two octaves apart) with whether they would get the preferred reward of milk or instead get the same amount of water. Once the dogs have learnt the discrimination task, they are presented with ‘ambiguous’ tones.

If dogs respond after ambiguous tones, it shows that they expect good things will happen to them, and they are called optimistic. They can show how optimistic they are by which tones they respond to. A very optimistic dog may even respond to tones that sound more like those played before water is offered.

“Of the dogs we tested we found more were optimistic than pessimistic but it is too early to say if that is true of the general dog population,” said Dr Starling.

However it does mean that both individuals and institutions (kennels, dog minders) can have a much more accurate insight into the emotional make-up of their dogs.

According to the research a dog with an optimistic personality expects more good things to happen, and less bad things. She will take risks and gain access to rewards. She is a dog that picks herself up when things don’t go her way, and tries again. Minor setbacks don’t bother her.

If your dog has a pessimistic personality, he expects less good things to happen and more bad things. This may make him cautious and risk averse. He may readily give up when things don’t go his way, because minor setbacks distress him. He may not be unhappy per se, but he is likely to be most content with the status quo and need some encouragement to try new things.

“Pessimistic dogs appeared to be much more stressed by failing a task than optimistic dogs. They would whine and pace and avoid repeating the task while the optimistic dogs would appear unfazed and continue,” said Dr Starling.

“This research could help working dog trainers select dogs best suited to working roles. If we knew how optimistic or pessimistic the best candidates for a working role are, we could test dogs’ optimism early and identify good candidates for training for that role. A pessimistic dog that avoids risks would be better as a guide dog while an optimistic, persistent dog would be more suited to detecting drugs or explosives.”

Dr Starling has been working with Assistance Dogs Australia, a charity organisation that provides service and companion dogs to people with disabilities, to investigate whether an optimism measure could aid in selecting suitable candidates for training.

The research not only suggests how personality may affect the way dogs see the world and how they behave but how positive or negative their current mood is.

“This research has the potential to completely remodel how animal welfare is assessed. If we know how optimistic or pessimistic an animal usually is, it’s possible to track changes in that optimism that will indicate when it is in a more positive or negative emotional state than usual,” said Dr Starling.

“The remarkable power of this is the opportunity to essentially ask a dog ‘How are you feeling?’ and get an answer. It could be used to monitor their welfare in any environment, to assess how effective enrichment activities might be in improving welfare, and pinpoint exactly what a dog finds emotionally distressing.”

Journal Reference:
  1. Melissa J. Starling, Nicholas Branson, Denis Cody, Timothy R. Starling, Paul D. McGreevy. Canine Sense and Sensibility: Tipping Points and Response Latency Variability as an Optimism Index in a Canine Judgement Bias Assessment. PLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (9): e107794 DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0107794

More Corporations Using Tag And Release Programs To Study American Consumers (Onion)

ISSUE 50•23 • Jun 13, 2014

A Procter & Gamble marketing team attaches a tracking collar to an incapacitated head-of-household specimen.

NEW YORK—In an effort to more closely observe the group’s buying habits and personal behaviors, a growing number of corporations are turning to tag and release programs to study American consumers, sources confirmed Friday.

According to reports, multinationals such as Kraft, General Electric, Goodyear, and Apple have embraced the technique of tracking down potential customers in their natural habitats of department stores and supermarkets, forcibly tranquilizing them as they shop, and then fitting them with electronic tracking devices that allow marketing departments to keep a detailed record of individuals’ every movement and purchasing decision.

“In recent weeks, we have employed our tag and release initiative to sedate and earmark consumers in several Costco parking lots and Best Buy television aisles, which has already yielded valuable data from numerous middle-class family units,” said Sony market researcher Nathan McElroy, whose team gathers data on the consumer population by attaching radio-transponder collars to specimens across all age groups and income levels. “Today we subdued and chipped a beautiful white male earning $60,000 annually whose subsequent actions—where he eats, where he works, whether he purchases extended warranties on electronic devices—will give us important insights into his demographic.”

“We’re really starting to get a clear idea of just what sales promotions and big-ticket expenditures make these fascinating creatures tick,” he continued.

Representatives from several Fortune 500 companies described to reporters a delicate process in which marketing associates journey to such varied field sites as Marshalls, OfficeMax, and Bed Bath & Beyond, where they lie in wait behind a row of shopping carts or a promotional cardboard cutout. Once a desirable target moves into view, a member of the marketing team reportedly attempts to immobilize it by firing a tranquilizer dart into its neck or haunches before it can panic and skitter off into another aisle. The unconscious consumer is then fitted with a small, subdermal acoustic tag that is synced to the subject’s credit cards, allowing marketers to both physically and financially track their quarries.

Claiming that every effort is taken to employ humane handling procedures and inflict minimal trauma, marketing associates stressed that consumers always wake up in the same clothing department or mini mall in which they were found, and most obliviously resume their browsing of store shelves within 30 minutes of being sedated.

Researchers affirmed they have become increasingly interested in valuable targets such as college graduates who allot more than $500 per month to discretionary purchases, saying they have become fascinated by the group’s herd-like movements to Panera Bread and IKEA as well as their ritual use of products such as Swiffers and tablets. By monitoring these consumers as they feed, groom, use their rewards cards, and mate, marketers acknowledged they have amassed a tremendous amount of useful knowledge.

“Just last month we collar-tagged a prime specimen of a variety we’d been attempting to capture for a very long time,” said BMW marketing executive Samantha Barlow, referring to a suburban mother in her late 40s who was found gathering bunches of watercress and beet greens at a Whole Foods, where her precise weekly route through the aisles has now been recorded and analyzed. “And we finally have geolocators implanted in several dozen young professionals aged 25 to 35, whose consumption of products such as Stella Artois, Hugo Boss apparel, and designer colognes suggest they’ll provide us with fruitful data for years to come.”

“It’s important that we tag them early in the development of their buying habits,” Barlow added. “Obviously, once they reach 65, they become useless for our purposes and we remove their tags, or just let them chew them off.”

Despite the success of their tracking programs, researchers admitted their work has been hindered by limits in their methodology, noting that they are unable to observe any quantifiable activity from as many as a quarter of their tagged targets who remain sedentary almost around the clock and rarely leave their dens. Marketers noted these larger, slower specimens must often be hit with two or three darts before they can be safely approached.

“A large portion of our targets are fast food consumers, and you’ll lose 10 or 12 percent of those each year, usually to heart disease,” said Jonathan Lockhart, an independent marketing consultant. “You hate to see that, but the upside is that we get useful data we can then turn around and sell to pharmaceutical companies.”

“What’s bad news for Burger King is great news for Merck, GlaxoSmithKline, and Pfizer,” he added.

Levante Popular da Juventude quer renovar práticas da esquerda (Carta Maior)

Fonte: Carta Maior, 22 de outubro de 2012

Porto Alegre – O ano de 2012 viu nascer uma novidade no cenário político brasileiro. Um grupo de jovens, organizado em torno do Levante Popular da Juventude, realizou uma série de atos denominados “escrachos” em frente às residências ou locais de trabalho de acusados de praticar crimes durante a ditadura. Em várias cidades do país, centenas de jovens saíram às ruas para denunciar esses crimes e defender a instalação da Comissão Nacional da Verdade para restaurar a memória, a verdade e a justiça desse período. Os atos contra os agentes da ditadura deram visibilidade nacional a esse movimento cujas origens remontam a 2005, no Rio Grande do Sul, a partir de militantes ligados à Via Campesina e à Consulta Popular. Em entrevista à Carta Maior, concedida na sede da organização em Porto Alegre, Lucio Centeno, Janaita Hartmann e Lauro Almeida Duvoisin falam sobre esse novo movimento social que tem como objetivo estratégico maior a construção de um projeto popular para o Brasil numa perspectiva socialista.

O marco da nacionalização do movimento ocorreu em fevereiro de 2012, durante um acampamento nacional em Santa Cruz do Sul (RS) que reuniu em torno de mil jovens de dezessete estados. Reunindo estudantes universitários e secundaristas, jovens das periferias das cidades e também do campo, o Levante se propõe a resgatar práticas relegadas a um segundo plano pela esquerda partidária, como o trabalho de base organizado a partir de células de militância, e defende a unidade dos movimentos sociais e dos partidos de esquerda em torno de alguns objetivos comuns: derrotar a direita e o projeto neoliberal no Brasil e conquistar uma ampla maioria na sociedade para um processo de transformação social, política e econômica no país.

O que é o Levante Popular da Juventude? Quando nasceu?

Lucio Centeno: Nenhum de nós aqui iniciou essa construção do Levante. Ela foi fruto de um trabalho de mobilização e da iniciativa que alguns companheiros tiveram no final de 2005, quando movimentos ligados à Via Campesina, incentivados pela Consulta Popular, identificaram que era necessário naquele momento fortalecer o processo de organização da juventude, em especial da juventude urbana. No campo já havia um processo relativo de organização com os movimentos da Via, mas muito pouco no meio urbano. A partir dessa leitura, alguns companheiros assumiram a tarefa de construir o que viria a ser o Levante Popular da Juventude. E o Levante nasce com a característica de ser uma ferramenta da juventude e não apenas de um segmento desse setor. Desde o início, se tinha a leitura da necessidade de se organizar não apenas os jovens estudantes universitários, mas também os jovens das periferias urbanas e, principalmente, articular essa juventude que não tinha um referencial de organização como tinha a juventude camponesa, organizada em torno da Via. O Levante nasce, então, com essa característica de aglutinar diferentes segmentos da juventude a partir de diferentes meios de inserção.

Neste sentido, é um movimento original. Normalmente o que há são movimentos de juventude ligados a partidos e a alguns segmentos específicos, como é o caso do movimento estudantil…

Lucio Centeno: Sim, o Levante nasce com esse referencial da esquerda social, do campo dos movimentos sociais. Ele se propõe a ser um movimento social e não uma juventude partidária, com esse recorte de querer articular jovens estudantes universitários, secundaristas e jovens da periferia urbana.

Lauro Duvoisin: Essa iniciativa surgiu também com base numa leitura que identifica, nos anos 2000, uma mudança nos setores mais dinâmicos da luta social. Embora exista ainda uma dinâmica grande lutas do MST, por exemplo, que foi uma referência nos anos 90, já ficava claro neste período que, sozinho, o MST não conseguiria seguir adiante. Neste período havia também uma crítica muito grande ao trabalho urbano sindical mais clássico da esquerda. Então, o Levante surge nesse contexto com o objetivo de renovar as práticas da esquerda e de resgatar uma prática que foi sendo negligenciada, que é o trabalho de base, aquilo que as CEBs (Comunidades Eclesiais de Base) faziam nos anos 70 e 80 e que sustentou boa parte do acúmulo que a esquerda teve neste período.

A ideia é que a juventude pode ser o setor dinâmico para voltar a impulsionar a luta. Daí a decisão de não segmentar a juventude como uma categoria no sentido econômico-corporativo, e fazer com que ela irradie sua força e sua prática para outros setores da sociedade, seja da classe trabalhadora urbana, do meio camponês ou do meio popular urbano. O objetivo é que ela forme novas referências e novos militantes para que o movimento cresça em todas essas frentes.

Qual é o horizonte estratégico do trabalho do Levante que transita em um espaço comum ao dos partidos de esquerda e ao dos movimentos sociais? Qual é o objetivo das lutas e das mobilizações?

Lucio Centeno: Esse é outro aspecto diferencial do Levante na medida em que ele não tem uma bandeira econômica setorial definida. O MST, por exemplo, tem claramente um horizonte que é a construção de uma reforma agrária popular. Já o Levante, por aglutinar diferentes setores da juventude e, principalmente, por ter uma perspectiva de luta política por um projeto de sociedade, e não só por demandas específicas, desenvolve um conjunto de lutas a partir daquilo que entendemos como um projeto popular para o Brasil. Então, embora não tenhamos uma bandeira claramente definida, pretendemos fortalecer e contribuir para a construção de um conjunto de bandeiras que apontam para esse projeto popular para o Brasil, para o fortalecimento de um projeto democrático e popular, que passa pela reforma agrária, pela descentralização dos meios de comunicação, pela garantia dos direitos básicos de educação, saúde, moradia, transporte.

Dentro desse guarda-chuva maior do projeto popular, os militantes do Levante, conforme sua inserção em um meio específico, trabalham contradições que envolvem esses jovens, relacionando esses problemas com a construção de um projeto maior para o país.

Lauro Duvoisin: A gente fala muitas vezes que o Levante não nasceu para dar conta de uma demanda específica, mas para buscar qual é a pauta capaz de levantar a juventude. E como o Lúcio afirmou, o Levante também se insere em uma estratégia que é maior do que ele, que é a construção, pelo campo da esquerda popular, de um projeto para o Brasil. Temos clareza que esse projeto não será construído só pela juventude. O Levante é uma parte de todo esse movimento. Sua tarefa é organizar a juventude por demandas específicas e por um projeto político maior, procurando também formar militantes para todas as outras frentes que compõem essa estratégia.

Nos últimos meses, o Levante ganhou maior visibilidade nacional com os escrachos contra agentes da ditadura realizados em várias cidades do país. Como surgiu essa ideia e qual o lugar desse tema na agenda da organização, no momento em que a Comissão da Verdade investiga crimes praticados por agentes do Estado naquele período?

Lucio Centeno: O Levante nasceu no Rio Grande do Sul em 2006, como um movimento estadual. Em outros estados, já havia mobilizações com a juventude que eram chamadas de juventude do campo com a cidade, mas ainda não havia uma proposta organizativa. Aqui no Rio Grande do Sul conseguimos transformar essa mobilização em um movimento social autônomo da juventude. Passaram-se cerca de cinco anos até que, em 2011, iniciou um processo de nacionalização do Levante, juntando experiências parecidas do mesmo campo político. Assim, o Levante se constituiu em dezessete estados. O marco de lançamento dessa nacionalização ocorreu agora em fevereiro de 2012, quando realizamos um acampamento nacional em Santa Cruz do Sul que reuniu em torno de mil jovens desses dezessete estados.

A partir dessa nacionalização, se constituiu uma organicidade nacional, com uma coordenação representativa desses estados e desses movimentos. Essa coordenação nacional começou a elaborar a estratégia da organização e, naquele momento, se identificou na conjuntura que essa bandeira da memória, verdade e justiça não estava sendo efetivamente empunhada com a devida importância por praticamente nenhum setor, para fazer um contraponto a movimentação que os militares vinham fazendo para tentar desconstituir a Comissão Nacional da Verdade. Então, naquele momento tínhamos os militares atuando nos bastidores, o governo acuado e a imprensa de alguma forma sendo conivente com esse processo de ocultação dos crimes da ditadura. Concluímos então que seria necessário uma mobilização da sociedade para que a Comissão da Verdade fosse efetivada.

Vimos, a partir da experiência de organizações parceiras da América Latina, a metodologia dos escrachos como a melhor forma de fazer ecoar essa bandeira. Mapeamos então quais Estados poderiam fazer essa ação e trabalhamos de forma coordenada nacionalmente para que tivéssemos um dia de ação nacional denunciando os torturadores e a impunidade dos crimes da ditadura. A partir disso, conseguimos uma grande adesão de vários setores da sociedade que impulsionaram o governo para garantir a instalação da Comissão da Verdade.

Lauro Duvoisin: Foi a junção de um momento, de uma oportunidade, com a condição que tínhamos alcançado. Se não tivéssemos uma organização de âmbito nacional naquele momento, talvez não conseguíssemos fazer uma intervenção daquela dimensão. A oportunidade estava ali. Conseguimos fazer uma leitura que se demonstrou correta no sentido de que aquela pauta (Comissão da Verdade) atingia o centro da conjuntura nacional. Pela primeira vez, o Levante conseguiu influenciar a conjuntura nacional efetivamente, embora já estivéssemos envolvidos em outras lutas locais.

Outra coisa importante nessas ações tem a ver com a questão do método que empregamos, que diz um pouco do que o Levante quer fazer, que é renovar os métodos de luta. Acreditamos que a luta que precisamos fazer é uma luta de massas. No entanto, no atual período, uma forma de luta como os escrachos se mostrou de grande valia para criar um impacto público sobre o tema da ditadura. É isso que queremos fazer, renovar os métodos de luta. A gente carece disso na esquerda.

Uma coisa que chamou muita atenção com os escrachos foi a grande participação da juventude nesses atos, algo que até bem pouco tempo não acontecia. Até então, o tema da ditadura não mobilizava a juventude. O que mudou?

Janaita Hartmann: Acho que isso tem muito a ver com a recuperação que o Levante faz da tradição de agitação e propaganda da esquerda. Desde 2008, a gente faz intervenções para lembrar os mortos do massacre de Eldorado de Carajás, com um teatro em lugar público. Então já temos uma história de ações desse tipo. Nós acertamos ao juntar esse trabalho de agitação que a gente já vinha fazendo com um tema da conjuntura que há muito tempo não era resgatado dessa forma, e por uma geração que não passou pela ditadura.

Lauro Duvoisin: Parece que houve uma quebra de continuidade geracional no Brasil. Na Argentina, desde muito tempo há a luta das Madres que se tornou um símbolo continental. No Brasil, embora exista a luta dos familiares, essa luta teve muito menos projeção social do que no caso da Argentina ou do próprio Chile. Então, parece que houve um atraso um pouco maior no Brasil. Mas essa pauta está viva na sociedade e não se esconde a história dessa forma. Isso mostra também que a questão da anistia, tal como foi conduzida pelos militares no final da ditadura, não está resolvida no Brasil.

Lucio Centeno: As intervenções do Levante conseguiram gerar adesões em diferentes setores da sociedade, que até então não estavam se posicionando muito sobre esse tema. A partir dos nossos atos, todo um campo se configurou em defesa dessa bandeira e isolou quem defendia a ocultação da verdade e a manutenção da impunidade. Essa é uma questão muito importante para nós: desenvolver lutas que dê sustentação para um projeto popular para o país.

Esse projeto popular a que vocês se referem é um projeto de poder? Se é, em algum momento, o Levante terá que se colocar a questão do partido. Vocês fazem esse debate, tem a pretensão de, em algum momento, se constituir como partido?

Lauro Duvoisin: A gente acredita que o projeto popular passa, sim, por um projeto de poder. Mas o grande desafio no momento é conseguir retomar as grandes lutas de massa no Brasil para que esse projeto se torne uma necessidade da sociedade. Um projeto de poder não é um projeto de um pequeno grupo ou de uma vanguarda isolada. Ele tem que se precedido de um processo que questione a organização social e a estrutura econômica da sociedade. É com esse espírito que o Levante entra na história. É evidente que os partidos e outras organizações têm uma grande contribuição a dar nesse processo. Mas sem a retomada das mobilizações de massa nenhuma organização conseguirá levar adiante esse projeto.

Considerando a grande participação nos escrachos promovidos pelo Levante e outras mobilizações de juventude, como essa que ocorreu em Porto Alegre recentemente contra a privatização de espaços públicos, parece haver uma ebulição de demandas na juventude que não está encontrando expressão nos partidos de esquerda…

Lucio Centeno: Quando começamos a fazer os escrachos fomos questionados sobre as mobilizações espontâneas da juventude na Europa e nos Estados Unidos. É evidente que são protestos importantes e que expressam uma inconformidade com o sistema, mas, enquanto movimento social, acreditamos que esses processos de mobilização requerem organização. Existe um certo fetiche em torno dessa ideia da capacidade das redes sociais e de novas ferramentas tecnológicas serem grandes atores mobilizadores no próximo período. Consideramos esses atores importantes, mas é imprescindível o processo organizativo na sociedade, que as pessoas tenham uma referência de organização, que não fiquem refém de vontades individuais ou de ativistas que atuam pontualmente.

Lauro Duvoisin: É por isso também que a gente preza a unidade tanto dos movimentos sociais como dos partidos de esquerda. Acreditamos que todas as organizações que tenham referência num projeto de democratização, de ampliação dos direitos, de resgate da liberdade na sociedade e na perspectiva do socialismo, devem fazer um esforço de unidade que hoje, muitas vezes, parece ser um esforço de fragmentação, seja no campo eleitoral, seja em torno de disputas menores e elementos táticos secundários que não são estratégicos. Para isso, é preciso também dar exemplos de unidade. O Levante procura dar esse exemplo.

Como é que o Levante se posiciona frente a períodos eleitorais. Qual foi a posição nestas eleições municipais?

Lauro Duvoisin: A nossa linha é de combate à direita, não só nas eleições, mas em todos os espaços da sociedade.

O que é a direita hoje no Brasil?

Lauro Duvoisin: Existe mais ou menos um consenso sobre o que é a direita no Brasil. Há um bloco político-partidário formado por PSDB, DEM e alguns partidos menores, que aglutina as forças defensoras do projeto neoliberal. Para nós, quem se opõem ao neoliberalismo não é direita. Mas o Levante é um movimento social autônomo que não tem vinculação partidária.

Janaita Hartmann: O Levante nasce da Via Campesina e da Consulta Popular, como uma organização autônoma de jovens. Essas organizações ajudaram a criar o Levante, mas ele é autônomo e passou a ter vida própria, tem uma organicidade própria. Ele permite a presença de militantes que tenham vinculação partidária desde que se respeite a autonomia do movimento.

Quais são os planos do Levante para os próximos meses. O tema da ditadura e da Comissão da Verdade seguirá ocupando um lugar central na agenda do movimento?

Lucio Centeno: O Levante se engaja num conjunto bastante diverso de lutas. Nós nos organizamos a partir de células, grupos de jovens militantes que estão inseridos em algum território, seja uma universidade, um assentamento, um bairro ou uma comunidade. Essa célula tem a tarefa de fazer trabalho de base e estimular as lutas nestes locais procurando mobilizar os jovens destes espaços. Temos uma célula, por exemplo, na região da Cruzeiro, aqui em Porto Alegre, que está sendo atingida pela duplicação da avenida Tronco, que é uma das chamadas obras da Copa.
Nesta região, temos uma atuação prioritariamente voltada para organizar os jovens e suas famílias e pressionar a prefeitura para que garanta o direito à moradia dessas pessoas. É uma luta local, específica, mas que está associada a um projeto mais amplo. Assim, cada célula está envolvida em alguma luta específica. Mas entendemos que há a necessidade de convergência dessas lutas específicas para lutas mais gerais, como essa em defesa da memória, da verdade e da justiça, que terá continuidade, agora juntamente com os comitês populares que se multiplicaram em vários Estados. O Levante não vai atuar isolado neste processo.

Uma segunda pauta que estamos começando a desenvolver é a defesa da construção de um projeto popular de educação. O Brasil sofreu durante muitos anos a implementação de uma educação neoliberal. A partir das gestões do PT tivemos um relativo avanço nesta área, com a criação de novas universidades e escolas técnicas. Em comparação ao paradigma neoliberal foi um avanço, mas em comparação com as demandas históricas da juventude em termos de acesso à educação, ainda há muito que avançar.

Protestos no Brasil viram piada em telejornal cômico nos EUA; assista (FSP)

03/07/2013 – 11h21

DE SÃO PAULO

A onda de protestos que tomou conta do Brasil desde o mês passado virou piada no canal americano Comedy Central.

No programa “Colbert Report”, Stephen Colbert faz uma sátira aos comentaristas de telejornal e diz coisas completamente sem noção sobre o assunto.

“Pessoal, eu não entendo… Estamos falando do Brasil, o lugar mais alegre da Terra”, comenta após exibir imagens de manifestações pelo país.

“A única coisa com o que os brasileiros se irritam é com seus pelos púbicos”, brincou, fazendo referência à depilação brasileira, que faz sucesso no exterior.

Assista ao vídeo aqui.

Roussolph the red-nosed reindeer (FT)

http://blogs.ft.com/beyond-brics/2012/12/24/roussolph-the-red-nosed-reindeer/#ixzz2GHguUlpl

Dec 24, 2012 2:00pm by Henry Mance

This year, the Christmas tale from beyondbrics takes us to the up-and-coming area of Brics-ton, where Roussolph the Brazilian reindeer has been unceremoniously dumped from Santa Capital’s portfolio.

Read on…

Santa: Right, listen up. This year’s sleigh team is the same as last year’s, except that the Latin American representative will be Peña Nieto of Mexico, who takes over from Roussolph. Talking of glossy hair gel, please welcome our new chief caribou Xi Jinping.

Roussolph: You can’t ditch/ underweight me! What about my wonderful shiny red nose?

Santa: It’s your red nose that’s the problem. Some children think you’re a socialist. Who trusts a socialist to deliver the goodies?

Roussolph: But Xi is a communist!

Santa: And yet he says all the right things.

Xi Jinping: Hello. Let’s fight corruption! Goodbye.

Santa: See? He also waves and smiles.

Roussolph: Fine. But remember my antlers – they’re the sixth biggest in the world!

David Camerolph: They’re not any more. Frightfully sorry, but ours are.

Roussolph: Overtaken by the omnishambles?! Why aren’t my antlers growing faster?

[Enter Guido the Forecasting Elf]

Guido the Elf: Great news! Next year your antlers will grow by one metre!

Roussolph: How do you know?

Guido the Elf: I stuck my finger in the air.

Roussolph: Eh?

Guido the Elf: I mean, I have performed a thorough calculation. I got predictions from all the other elves then doubled them.

Roussolph: Oh, Guido. You’re as persistent as Argentine bond hold-out – and about as helpful. Why don’t I sack you?

Guido the Elf: Because the Economist told you to?

Roussolph: Alas. Where did it all go wrong? Whatever happened to the shining ‘B’ of emerging markets – rich in resources, loved by investors, finally overcoming years of corrupt government…

Santa: Do you mean Bur—

Roussolph: NO, I DO NOT MEAN BURMA. Is Burma hosting the World Cup?

Guido the Elf: The World Cup! I knew there was something I was meant to be preparing for. How many stadiums was it?

[Exits, pursued by a bear]

Roussolph: Oh, this is like a Greek tragedy.

Bluff the Magic Draghi [entering]: Did someone call for me?

Roussolph: The Magic Draghi! Thank goodness. Do you remember the good times? When everyone loved my red nose?

Draghi: When they called you exotic – but in a good way?

Roussolph: They would look at me and whisper, “Oh, what a lovely pair of commodities ” … and no one would ever say, “but a pity the roads back to your place are so bad.”

Draghi: You deserve better than this ! I have a simple solution. With my magic, I can turn back time, using only the power of liquidity!

Roussolph: please, turn it back!

Draghi: Back you go! To the time you were future! To the days your red nose shone most proudly! Back to the 1970s!

Roussolph: Saved at last! I’ll definitely be in the sleigh portfolio next year!

Draghi: Yes! Now what was that tune…

Roussolph the Reindeer [all join in and sing:]

You know old Vladdy Putin
And shiny Xi Jinping
There’s smooth Peña Nieto
And shy Manmohan Singh
But do you recall
The boldest EM reindeer of all?

Roussolph the red-nosed reindeer,
Busy as a jumping bean.
Each time she saw a problem,
Thought the state should intervene.

Vanquished fund managers
Even dared to call her names
(like “Cristina”).
They made sure poor Roussolph
Never saw no share price gains
(Remember Petrobras?).

Then one growth-free Christmas Eve
Santa came to say,
“Roussolph, oh your nose so bright
Gives investors quite a fright!”

All of the other reindeers
Were smitten with anxiety.
Maybe some emerging markets
Haven’t learnt their history?

Apologies to Johnny Marks

 

Weathering Fights – Science: What’s It Up To? (The Daily Show with Jon Stewart)

http://media.mtvnservices.com/mgid:cms:video:thedailyshow.com:400760

Science claims it’s working to cure disease, save the planet and solve the greatest human mysteries, but Aasif Mandvi finds out what it’s really up to. (05:47) – Comedy Central

Making Funny with Climate Change (The Yale Forum on Climate Change & The Media)

Keith Kloor   September 30, 2011

Comedy may be able to make inroads with audiences in ways that ‘serious journalism’ often cannot. With an issue as serious as climate science suggests, communicators should not shy from taking the risks of injecting humor as appropriate.

 

Last week, Colorado-based science journalist Michelle Nijhuis lamented the standard environmental news story. She wrote:

“Environmental journalists often feel married to the tragic narrative. Pollution, extinction, invasion: The stories are endless, and endlessly the same. Our editors see the pattern and bury us in the back pages; our readers see it and abandon us on the subway or in the dentist’s office.”

 

Commentary 

A welcome exception to this rule, Nijhuis noted, was New Yorker writer Ian Frazier, who has injected humor into the many environmentally themed nonfiction pieces he’s penned over the years.

This might also be the key to the success of Carl Hiaasen‘s best-selling novels. There is nothing new about the sleazy politics and environmental destruction that are regular themes of his books. But it gets digested through wickedly funny scenes and lampooned characters. There are no sacred cows, either. Tree huggers and traditional eco-villains get equally caricatured.

Writers have had a harder time using humor to communicate global warming. In the non-fiction universe, there are no Ian Fraziers tackling the issue in a quirky, sideways manner. Journalists in mainstream media treat the topic somberly and dutifully. Exhaustion may be setting in for some. Recently NPR’s Robert Krulwich wrote:

“I got a call the other day from some producer I very much admire. They wanted to talk about a series next year on global warming and I thought, why does this subject make me instantly tired? Global warming is important, yes; controversial, certainly; complicated (OK by me); but somehow, even broaching this subject makes me feel like someone’s putting heavy stones in my head.”

But if reporters are getting jaded, TV writers and comedians are eagerly joining the fray. Recent satirical novels by acclaimed writers, such as Jonathan Franzen and Ian McEwan have also tackled climate change.

Whether any of these pop culture and high-minded literary endeavors is influencing attitudes is impossible to know. Still, some climate communicators see humor as their best chance to make climate issues resonate with the public at large, though the tact can be a double-edged sword, as one climate campaigner notes:

“Humor’s capacity for radical imagination creates a mental space for potential change but also comes with a loss of control as it breaks taboos and turns the order of reality upside down and inside out. Indeed, because of this ability to destabilize the established order, George Orwell stated that every joke is a tiny revolution. It denudes power of its authority, which is true of those that we oppose but also those that we cherish. Using humor to communicate on climate change means that scientists and environmentalists lose the monopoly on framing climate change and even risk becoming the butt of the joke. However uncomfortable, this may be necessary if we truly want the public at large to take ownership of the issue.”

That some attempts at humor can backfire has already been demonstrated. But if the stakes are as high as climate science suggests, then that’s a risk climate communicators should not be afraid to take.

Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a New York City-based freelance journalist who writes often about the environment and climate change. (E-mail: keith@yaleclimatemediaforum.org)

The Folly of Prediction: Full Transcript (Freakonomics.com)

FREAKONOMICS

06/30/2011 | 4:58 pm

Stephen J. DUBNER: What does it mean to be a witch exactly in Romania? Are these people that we know here as psychics or fortunetellers, or are they different somehow?

Vlad MIXICH: I don’t know how is the fortuneteller in the United States. But here generally they are a woman of different ages. They can–they say they can cure some diseases. They can bring back your husband or your wife. Or they can predict your future.

DUBNER: Who is a typical client for a witch?

MIXICH: There are quite a lot of politicians who are going to witches. You know the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, he went to witches last year. And our president in Romania, and very important politicians from different parties, they are going to witches. Some of them they were obliged to recognize they went to witches. Some of them it’s an off-the-record information. But me being a journalist, I know that information.

DUBNER: Vlad Mixich is a reporter in Bucharest, the capital of Romania. He knows a good bit about the witches there.

MIXICH: Quite a lot of them they are quite rich. They have very big houses with golden rooftops. A lot of the Romanians, they are living in small apartments in blocks. So, just going in such a building will give you a sense of majesty and respect.

DUBNER: But the Romanian witch industry has been under attack. First came a proposed law to regulate and tax the witches. It passed in one chamber of Parliament before stalling out. But then came another proposal arguing that witches should be penalized if the predictions they make don’t turn out to be true.

MIXICH: So if you are one of my clients, and if I’m a fortune teller, if I fail to predict your future, I pay a quite substantial fine to the state, or if this happens many times, I will even go to jail. The punishment is between six months and three years in jail.

DUBNER: What’s being proposed in Romania is revolutionary. It strikes me because we typically don’t hold anybody accountable for bad predictions. So, I’m wondering in Romania, let’s say, if a politician makes a bad prediction, do they get fined or penalized in any way?

MIXICH: No, not at all. In fact this is one of the hobbies of our president. He’s doing a lot of predictions, which are not coming true, of course. And after that he is reelected! Or his popularity is rising, like the sun in the morning, you know? No, anyone can do publicly a lot of predictions here in eastern Europe and not a single hair will move from his or her head.

DUBNER: C’mon people, that doesn’t seem fair, does it? I don’t care if you’re anti-witch or pro-witch or witch-agnostic. Why should witches be the only people held accountable for bad predictions? What about politicians and money managers and sports pundits? And what about you?

[THEME]

ANNOUNCER: From WNYC and APM, American Public Media, this is Freakonomics Radio. Today: The Folly of Prediction. Here’s your host, Stephen Dubner.

DUBNER: All of us are constantly predicting the future, whether we think about it or not. Right now, some small part of your brain is trying to predict what this show is going to be about. How do you do that? You factor in what you’ve heard so far. What you know about Freakonomics. Maybe you know a lot, maybe you’ve never heard of it, you might think it’s some kind of communicable disease! When you predict the future, you look for cognitive cues, for data, for guidance. Here’s where I go for guidance.

Steven LEVITT: I think to an economist, the best explanation for why there are so many predictions is that the incentives are set up in order to encourage predictions.

DUBNER: That’s Steve Levitt. He’s my Freakonomics friend and co-author, an economist at the University of Chicago.

LEVITT: So, most predictions we remember are ones which were fabulously, wildly unexpected and then came true. Now, the person who makes that prediction has a strong incentive to remind everyone that they made that crazy prediction which came true. If you look at all the people, the economists, who talked about the financial crisis ahead of time, those guys harp on it constantly. “I was right, I was right, I was right.” But if you’re wrong, there’s no person on the other side of the transaction who draws any real benefit from embarrassing you by bring up the bad prediction over and over. So there’s nobody who has a strong incentive, usually, to go back and say, Here’s the list of the 118 predictions that were false. I remember growing up, my mother, who is somewhat of a psychic–

DUBNER: Wait, somewhat of a psychic?

LEVITT: She’s a self-proclaimed psychic. And she would predict a stock market crash every single year.

DUBNER: And she’s been right a couple times.

LEVITT: And she has been. She’s been right twice in the last 15 years, and she would talk a lot about the times she was right. I would have to remind her about the 13 times that she was wrong. And without any sort of market mechanism or incentive for keeping the prediction makers honest, there’s lots of incentive to go out and to make these wild predictions. And those are the ones that are remembered and talked about. Think of about one of the predictions that you hear echoed more often than just about any one is Joe Namath’s famous pronouncement about how the Jets were going to win the Super Bowl. And it was unexpected. And it happened. And if the Jets had lost the Super Bowl, nobody would remember that Joe Namath made that pronouncement.

DUBNER: And conversely, you can probably find at least one player on every team that’s lost the Super Bowl in the last forty years that did predict that his team would win.

LEVITT: That’s probably right. That’s exactly right. Now, the flip side, which is perhaps surprising, is that in many cases the goal of prediction is to be completely within the pack. And so I see this a lot with pension fund managers, or endowment managers, which is if something goes wrong then as long as everybody else made the same prediction, you can’t be faulted very much.

DUBNER: Pension managers. Football players. Psychic moms. Romanian witches. Who doesn’t try to predict the future these days?

[SOUND MONTAGE OF PREDICTIONS]

DUBNER: And you know the worst thing? There’s almost nobody keeping track of all those predictions! Nobody … except for this guy …

Philip TETLOCK: Well, I’m a research psychologist, who …

DUBNER: Don’t forget your name, though.

TETLOCK: I’m Phil Tetlock and I’m a research psychologist. I spent most of career at the University of California, Berkeley, and I recently moved to the University of Pennsylvania where I’m cross- appointed in the Wharton School and the psychology department.

DUBNER: Philip Tetlock has done a lot of research on cognition and decision-making and bias, pretty standard stuff for an Ivy League psych PhD. But what really fascinates him is prediction.

TETLOCK: There are a lot of psychologists who believe that there is a hard-wired human need to believe that we live in a fundamentally predictable and controllable universe. There’s also a widespread belief among psychologists that people try hard to impose causal order on the world around them, even when those phenomena are random.

DUBNER: This hardwired human need, as Tetlock puts it, has created what he calls a prediction industry. Now, don’t sneer. You’re part of it, too.

TETLOCK: I think there are many players in what you might count the prediction industry. In some sense we’re all players in it. Whenever we go to a cocktail party, or a colloquium, or whatever where opinions are being shared, we frequently make likelihood judgments about possible futures. And the truth or falsity of particular claims about futures. The prediction business is a big business on Wall Street, and we have futures markets and so forth designed to regulate speculation in those areas. Obviously, government has great interest in prediction. They create large intelligence agency bureaucracies and systems to help them achieve some degree of predictability in a seemingly chaotic world.

DUBNER: Let me read something that you have said or written in the past. “This determination to ferret out order from chaos has served our species well. We’re all beneficiaries of our great collective successes in pursuit of deterministic regularities in messy phenomena — agriculture, antibiotics, and countless other inventions.” So talk to me for a moment about the value of prediction. Obviously there’s much has been gained, much to be gained. Do we overvalue prediction though, perhaps?

TETLOCK: I think there’s an asymmetry of supply and demand. I think there is an enormous demand for accurate predictions in many spheres of life in which we don’t have the requisite expertise to deliver. And when you have that kind of gap between demand and real supply you get the infusion of fake supply.

DUBNER: “Fake supply.” I like this guy, this Philip Tetlock. He’s not an economist, but he knows the laws of supply and demand can’t just be revoked. So if there’s big demand for prediction in all realms of life, and not enough real supply to satisfy it, what does this “fake supply” sound like?

[SOUND MONTAGE OF COULDS]

DUBNER: There’s a punditocracy out there, a class of people who predict ad nauseam, often on television. They can be pretty good at making their predictions tough to audit.

TETLOCK: It’s the art of appearing to go out on a limb without actually going out on a limb. For example, the word “could,” something “could” happen, the room you happen to be sitting in could be struck by a meteor in the next 23 seconds. That makes perfect sense, but the probability of course is point zero, zero, zero, zero, et cetera, one. It’s not zero, but it’s extremely low. In fact, the word “could,” the possible meanings people attach to it range from a 0.01 to a .6, which covers more than half the probability scale right there.

DUBNER: Look, nobody likes a weasel. So more than 20 years ago, Tetlock set out to conduct one of the largest empirical studies, ever, of predictions. He chose to focus on predictions about political developments around the world. He enlisted some of the world’s foremost experts — the kind of very smart people who have written definitive books, who show up on CNN or on the Times’s op-ed page.

TETLOCK: In the end we had close to three hundred participants. And they were very sophisticated political observers. Virtually all of them had some post-graduate education. Roughly two-thirds of them had PhDs. They were largely political scientists, but there were some economists and a variety of other professionals as well.

DUBNER: And they all participated in your study anonymously, correct?

TETLOCK: That was a very important condition for obtaining cooperation.

DUBNER: Now, if they were not anonymous then presumably we would recognize some of their names, these are prominent people at political science departments, economics departments at I’m guessing some of the better universities around the world, is that right?

TETLOCK: Well, I don’t want to say too much more, but I think you would recognize some of them, yes. I think some of them had substantial Google counts.

SJD NARR: The study became the basis of a book Tetlock published a few years ago, called “Expert Political Judgment.” There were two major rounds of data collection, the first beginning in 1988, the other in 1992. These nearly 300 experts were asked to make predictions about dozens of countries around the world. The questions were multiple choice. For instance: In Democracy X — let’s says it’s England — should we expect that after the next election, the current majority party will retain, lose, or strengthen its status? Or, for Undemocratic Country Y — Egypt, maybe — should we expect the basic character of the political regime to change in the next five years? In the next 10 years? and if so, in what direction? And to what effect? The experts made predictions within their areas of expertise, and outside; and they were asked to rate their confidence for their predictions. So after tracking the accuracy of about 80,000 predictions by some 300 experts over the course of 20 years, Philip Tetlock found:

TETLOCK: That experts thought they knew more than they knew.That there was a systematic gap between subjective probabilities that experts were assigning to possible futures and the objective likelihoods of those futures materializing.

DUBNER: Let me translate that for you. The experts were pretty awful. And you think: awful compared to what? Did they beat a monkey with a dartboard?

TETLOCK: Oh, the monkey with a dartboard comparison, that comes back to haunt me all the time. But with respect to how they did relative to, say, a baseline group of Berkeley undergraduates making predictions, they did somewhat better than that. Did they do better than an extrapolation algorithm? No, they did not. They did for the most part a little bit worse than that. How did they do relative to purely random guessing strategy? Well, they did a little bit better than that, but not as much as you might hope.

DUBNER: That “extrapolation algorithm” that Tetlock mentioned? That’s simply a computer programmed to predict “no change in current situation.” So it turned out these smart, experienced, confident experts predicted the political future about as well, if not slightly worse, than the average daily reader of The New York Times.

TETLOCK: I think the most important takeaway would be that the experts are, they think they know more than they do. They were systematically overconfident. Some experts were really massively overconfident. And we are able to identify those experts based on some of their characteristics of their belief system and their cognitive style, their thinking style.

DUBNER: OK. So now we’re getting into the nitty-gritty of what makes people predict well or predict poorly. What are the characteristics then of a poor predictor?

TETLOCK: Dogmatism.

DUBNER: It can be summed up that easily?

TETLOCK: I think so. I think an unwillingness to change one’s mind in a reasonably timely way in response to new evidence. A tendency, when asked to explain one’s predictions, to generate only reasons that favor your preferred prediction and not to generate reasons opposed to it.

DUBNER: And I guess what’s striking to me and I’d love to hear what you had to say about this is that it’s easy to provide one word, prediction, to many, many, many different realms in life. But those realms all operate very differently — so politics is different from economics, and predicting a sports outcome is different than predicting, you know, an agricultural outcome. It seems that we don’t distinguish so much necessarily and that there’s this modern sense almost that anything can be and should be able to be predicted. Am I kind of right on that, or no?

TETLOCK: I think there’s a great deal of truth to that. I think it is very useful in talking about the predictability of the modern world to distinguish those aspects of the world that show a great deal of linear regularity and those parts of the world that seems to be driven by complex systems that are decidedly nonlinear and decidedly difficult if not impossible to predict.

DUBNER: Talk to me about a few realms that generally are very, very hard to predict, and a few realms that generally are much easier.

TETLOCK: Predicting Scandinavian politics is a lot easier than predicting Middle Eastern politics.

DUBNER: Yes, that was the first one that came to my mind too! All right, but keep going.

TETLOCK: The thing about the radically unpredictable environments is that they often appear for long periods of time to be predictable. So, for example, if you had been a political forecaster predicting regime longevity in the Middle East, you would have done extremely well predicting in Egypt that Mubarak would continue to be the president of Egypt year after year after year in much the same way that if you had been a Sovietologist you would have done very well in the Brezhnev era predicting continuity. There’s an aphorism I quote in the “Expert Political Judgment” book from Karl Marx. I’m obviously not a Marxist but it’s a beautiful aphorism that he had which was that, “When the train of history hits a curve, the intellectuals fall off.”

DUBNER: Coming up: Who do you predict we’ll hear from next — a bunch of people who are awesomely good at predicting the future? Yeah, right. Maybe later. First, we’ll hear some more duds — from Wall Street, the NFL, and … the cornfield.

[UNDERWRITING]

ANNOUNCER: From American Public Media and WNYC, this is Freakonomics Radio. Here’s your host, Stephen Dubner.

DUBNER: So Phillip Tetlock has sized up the people who predict the future–geopolitical change, for instance–and determined that they’re not very good at predicting the future. He also tells us that their greatest flaw is dogmatism–sticking to their ideologies even when presented with evidence that they’re wrong. You buy that? I buy it. Politics is full of ideology; why shouldn’t the people who study politics be a least a little bit ideological? So let’s try a different set of people, people who make predictions that, theoretically at least, have nothing to do with ideology. Let’s go to Wall Street.

[SOUND EFFECT: WALL STREET MONTAGE]

Christina FANG: I’m Christina Fang, a Professor of Management at New York University’s business school.

DUBNER: Christina Fang, like Philip Tetlock, is fascinated with prediction:

FANG: Well, I guess generally forecasting about anything, about technology, about a product, whether it will be successful, about whether an idea, a venture idea could take off, a lot of things, not just economic but also business in general.

DUBNER: Fang wasn’t interested in just your street-level predictions, though. She wanted to know about the Big Dogs, the people who make bold economic predictions that carry price tags in the many millions or even billions of dollars. Along with a fellow researcher, Jerker Denrell, Fang gathered data from the Wall Street Journal’s Survey of Economic Forecasts. Every six months, the paper asked about 50 top economists to predict a set of macroeconomic numbers — unemployment, inflation, gross national product, things like that. Fang audited seven consecutive surveys, with an eye toward a particular question: when someone correctly predicts an extreme event — a market crash, maybe, or a sudden spike in inflation — what does that say about his overall forecasting ability?

FANG: In the Wall Street Journal survey if you look at the extreme outcomes, either extremely bad outcomes and extremely good outcomes, you see that those people who correctly predicted either extremely good or extremely bad outcomes, they’re likely to have overall lower level of accuracy. In other words, they’re doing poorer in general.

SJD NARR: Uh-oh. You catching this?

FANG: Those people who happen to predict accurately the extreme events, we also look at their–they happen to also have a lower overall level of accuracy.

DUBNER: So I can be right on the big one but if I’m right on the big one I generally will tend to be more often wrong than the average person.

FANG: On average–

DUBNER: On average.

FANG: Across everyday predictions as well. And our research suggests that for someone who has successfully predicted those events, we are going to predict that they are not likely to repeat their success very often. In other words, their overall capability is likely to be not as impressive as their apparent success seems to be.

DUBNER: So the people who make big, bold, correct predictions are in general worse than average at predicting the economic future. Now, why is this a problem? Maybe they’re just like home-run hitters — y’know, a lot of strikeouts but a lot of power too. All right, I’ll tell you why it’s a problem. Actually, I’ll have Steve Levitt tell you.

LEVITT: The incentives for prediction makers are to make either cataclysmic or utopian predictions, right? Because you don’t get attention if I say that what’s going to happen tomorrow is exactly as what’s going to happen today…

DUBNER: You don’t get on TV.

LEVITT: I don’t get on TV. If it happens to come true, who cares? I don’t get any credit for it coming true either.

DUBNER: There’s a strong incentive to make extreme predictions; because, seriously, who tunes in to hear some guy say that “Next year will be pretty much like last year”? And once you have been right on an extreme forecast — let’s say you predicted the 2008 market crash and the Great Recession — even if you were predicting it every year, like Steve Levitt’s mother — you’ll still be known as The Guy Who Called the Big One. And even if all your followup predictions are wrong, you still got the Big One right. Like Joe Namath.

All right, look. Predicting the economy? Predicting the political future? Those are hard. Those are big, complex systems with lots of moving parts. So how about football? If you’re an NFL expert, how hard can it be to forecast, say, who the best football teams will be in a given year? We asked Freakonomics researcher Hayes Davenport to run the numbers for us:

Hayes DAVENPORT: Well, I looked at the past three years of expert picking from the major NFL prediction outlets, which are USA Today, SportsIllustrated.com and ESPN.com. We looked at a hundred and five sets of picks total. They’re picking division winners for each year, as well as the wild card for that year. So they’re basically picking the whole playoff picture for that year.

DUBNER: So talk about just kind of generally the degree of difficulty of making this kind of a pick.

DAVENPORT: Well, if you’re sort of an untrained animal, making NFL picks, you’re going to have about a twenty-five percent chance of picking each division correctly because there are only four teams.

DUBNER: All right so Hayes, you’re saying that an untrained animal would be about twenty five percent accurate if you pick one out of four. But what about a trained animal, like a me, a casual fan? How do I do compared to the experts?

DAVENPORT: Right. So if you’re cutting off the worst team in each division, if you’re not picking among those you’ll be right, thirty-three percent of the time, one in three, and the experts are right about thirty-six percent of the time, so just a little better than that.

DUBNER: OK, so if you’re saying they’re picking about thirty-six percent accuracy, and I or someone by chance would pick at about thirty three-percent accuracy. So that’s a three percentage point improvement, or about a ten percent better, maybe we should say, you know, that’s not bad. If you beat the stock market by ten percent every year you’d be doing great. So are these NFL pundits being thirty-six percent right being really wonderful or–

DAVENPORT: I wouldn’t say that because there’s a specific fallacy these guys are operating from, which is they tend to rely much too heavily on the previous year’s standings in making their picks for the following year. They play it very conservatively. But there’s a very high level of parity in the NFL right now, so that’s not exactly how it works.

DUBNER: Tell me some of the pundits who whether by luck or brilliance and hard work turn out to be really, really good.

DAVENPORT: Sure. There are two guys from ESPN who are sort of far ahead of the field. One is Pat Yasinskas, and the other is John Clayton, who is pretty well known; he makes a lot of appearances on SportsCenter and he’s kind of a, nebbish-y professorial type. And they perform much better than everyone else because they’re excellent wild-card pickers. They’re the only people who have correctly predicted both wild card teams in a conference in a season. But they’re especially good because they actually play it much safer than everyone else.

DUBNER: Now you say that they are very good. Persuade me that they’re good and not lucky.

DAVENPORT: I can’t do that. There’s a luck factor involved in all of these predictions. For example, if you pick the Patriots in 2008 and Tom Brady gets injured, and they drop out of the playoffs, there’s very little you can do to predict that. So injuries will mess with prediction all the time. And other turnover rates in football that are sort of unpredictable. So there’s a luck factor to all of this.

DUBNER: So whether it’s football experts calling Sunday’s game or economists forecasting the economy, or political pundits looking for the next revolution, we’re talking about accuracy rates that barely beat a coin toss. But maybe all these guys deserve a break. Maybe it’s just inherently hard to predict the future of other human beings. They’re so malleable; so unpredictable! So how about a prediction where human beings are incidental to the main action?

Joe PRUSACKI: I’m Joe Prusacki and I am the Director of Statistics Division with USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, or NASS for short.

DUBNER: You grew up on a farm, yeah?

PRUSACKI: Uh-huh: Yep, I grew up in–I always call it “deep southern” Illinois. I’m sitting here in Washington DC and where I grew up in Illinois is further south than where I’m sitting today. We raised…we had corn, soybeans and raised hogs.

DUBNER: You’ve heard of Anna Wintour, right? The fabled editor of Vogue magazine? Joe Prusacki is kinda like Anna Wintour for farmers. He puts out publications that are read by everyone who’s anyone in the industry — titles like “Acreage” and “Prospective Plantings” and “Crop Production.” Prusacki’s reports carry running forecasts of crop yields for cotton, soybeans, wheat and corn.

PRUSACKI: Most of the time our monthly forecasts are probably within I can guarantee you within five percent and most of the time I can say within two to three percent of the final. And someone would say that’s seems very good. But in the agricultural world, the users expect us to be much more precise in our forecasts.

DUBNER: So how does this work? How does the USDA forecast something as vast as the agricultural output of American farmers?

PRUSACKI: Like at the beginning of March, we will conduct a large survey of farmers and ranchers across the United States and sample size this time, this year was about 85,000.

DUBNER: The farmers are asked how many acres they plan to devote to each crop. Corn, let’s say. Then, in late July, the USDA sends out a small army of “enumerators” into roughly 1,900 cornfields in 10 states. These guys mark off plots of corn, 20 feet long by two rows across.

PRUSACKI: They’re randomly placed. We have randomly selected fields, in random location within field. So you may get a sample that’s maybe 20 paces into the field and 40 rows over and you may get one that’s 250 paces into the field and 100 rows over.

DUBNER: The enumerators look at every plant in that plot.

PRUSACKI: And then they’ll count what they see or anticipate to be ears based on looking at the plant.

DUBNER: A month later, they go back out again and check the cornstalks, check the ears.

PRUSACKI: Well, you could have animal loss, animal might chew the plant off, the plant may die. So all along we’re updating the number of plants, all along we’re updating the number of ears. The other thing we need, you need an estimate of ear weight or fruit weight.

DUBNER: So they go out again, cut off a bunch of ears and weigh them. But wait: still not done. After the harvest, there’s one more round of measurement.

PRUSACKI: Once the field is harvested, and the machine has gone through the field, the enumerator will go back out to the field, they’ll lay out another plot–just beyond the harvest area where we were–and they will go through and pick up off the ground any kernels that are left on the ground, pieces of ears of corn and such on the ground so we get a measure of harvest loss.

DUBNER: So this sounds pretty straightforward, right? Compared to predicting something like the political or economic future, estimating corn yield based on constant physical measurements of corn plants is pretty simple. Except for one thing. It’s called the weather. Weather remains so hard to predict in the long term that the USDA doesn’t even use forecasts; it uses historic averages instead.

DUBNER: So Joe, talk to me about what happened last year with the USDA corn forecast. You must have known this was coming from me. So the Wall Street Journal’s headline was: “USDA Flubs in Predicting Corn Crops.” Explain what happened.

PRUSACKI: Well, this is the weather factor that came into play. It turned out pretty hot and pretty dry in most of the growing region. And I had asked a few folks that are out and about in Iowa what happened. They said this is just a really strange year. We just don’t know. Now, when if someone says did we flub it? I don’t know. It was the forecast based on the information I had as for August 1. Now, September 1, I had a different set of information. October 1, I had a different set of information. Could we have did a better job?

DUBNER: A lot of people thought they could have. Last June, the USDA lowered its estimate of corn stockpiles; and in October, it cut its estimate of corn yield. After the first report, the price of corn spiked 9 percent. The second report? Another 6 percent. Joe Prusacki got quite a few e-mails:

PRUSACKI: OK, the first one is, this was: “Thanks a lot for collapsing the grain market today with your stupid…and the word is three letters, begins with an “a” and then it has two dollar signs … USDA report.

“As bad as the stench of dead bodies in Haiti must be, it can’t even compare to the foul stench of corruption emanating from our federal government in Washington DC.”

DUBNER: It strikes me that there’s room for trouble here in that your forecasts are used by a lot of different people who engage in a lot of different markets, and your research can move markets. I’m wondering what kind of bribes maybe come your way?

PRUSACKI: It’s interesting, I have people that call, we call them ‘fishersThey call maybe a day or two days before when we’re finishing our work and it’s like I tell them, I say, “Why do you do this? We’ve had this discussion before.” There’s a couple things, one I sign a confidentiality statement every year that says I shall not release any information before it’s due time or bad things happen. It’s a $100,000 fine or time in prison. It’s like the dollar fine, OK. It’s the prison part that bothers me!

DUBNER: But there’s got to be a certain price at which–so let’s say I offered you, I came to you and I said–Joe, $10 million for a 24-hour head start on the corn forecast.

PRUSACKI: I’m not going to do it. Trust me, somebody would track me down.

DUBNER: I hear you.

PRUSACKI: Again, the prison time, it bothers me.

DUBNER: All right, so Joe Prusacki probably can’t be bought. And the USDA is generally considered to do a pretty good job with crop forecasts. But: look how hard the agency has to work, measuring corn fields row by row, going back to look for animal loss and harvest loss. And still, its projection, which is looking only a few months into the future, can get thrown totally out of whack by a little stretch of hot, dry weather. That dry spell was essentially a random event, kind of like Tom Brady’s knee getting smashed. I hate to tell you this but the future is full of random events. That’s why it’s so hard to predict. That’s why it can be scary. Do we know this? Of course we know it. Do we believe it? Mmmmm.

Some scholars say that our need for prediction is getting worse — or, more accurately, that we get more upset now when the future surprises us. After all, as the world becomes more rational and routinized, we often know what to expect. I can get a Big Mac not only in New York but in Beijing, too — and they’ll taste pretty much the same. So when you’re used to that, and when things don’t go as expected — watch out.

Our species has been trying to foretell the future forever. Oracles and goat entrails and roosters pecking the dirt. The oldest religious texts are filled with prediction. I mean, look at the afterlife! What is that if not a prediction of the future? A prediction that, as far as I can tell, can never be categorically refuted or confirmed. A prediction so compelling that it remains all these years later a concept around which billions of people organize their lives. So what do you see when you gaze into the future? A yawning chasm of random events — or do you look for a neat pattern, even if no such pattern exists?

Nassim TALEB: It’s much more costly for someone to not detect a pattern.

DUBNER: That’s Nassim Taleb, the author of “Fooled By Randomness” and “The Black Swan.”

TALEB: It’s much costlier for us — as a race, to make the mistake of not seeing a leopard than having the illusion of pattern and imagining a leopard where there is none. And that error, in other words, mistaking the non-random for the random, which is what I call the “one-way bias.” Now that bias works extremely well, because what’s the big deal of getting out of trouble? It’s not costing you anything. But in the modern world, it is not quite harmless. Illusions of certainty makes you think that things that haven’t exhibited risk, for example the stock market, are riskless. We have the turkey problem — the butcher feeds the turkey for a certain number of days, and then the turkey imagines this is permanent.

DUBNER: “The butcher feeds the turkey and the turkey imagines this is permanent.” So you’ve got to ask yourself: who am I? The butcher? Or the turkey? Coming up: hedgehogs and foxes — and a prediction that does work. Here’s a hint: if you like this song, [MUSIC], you’ll probably like this one too: [MUSIC].

[UNDERWRITING]

ANNOUNCER: From American Public Media and WNYC, this is Freakonomics Radio.

DUBNER: Hey, guess what, Sunshine? Al Gore didn’t win Florida. Didn’t become president either. Try walking that one back. So we are congenital predictors, but our predictions are often wrong. What then? How do you defend your bad predictions? I asked Philip Tetlock what all those political experts said when he showed them their results. He had already stashed their excuses in a neat taxonomy:

TETLOCK: So, if you thought that Gorbachev for example, was a fluke, you might argue, well my understanding of the Soviet political system is fundamentally right, and the Soviet Politburo, but for some quirky statistical aberration of the Soviet Politburo would have gone for a more conservative candidate. Another argument might be, well I predicted that Canada would disintegrate, that Quebec would secede from Canada, and it didn’t secede, but the secession almost did succeed because there was a fifty point one percentage vote against secession, and that’s well within the margin of sampling error.

DUBNER: Are there others you want to name?

TETLOCK: Well another popular prediction is “off on timing.” That comes up quite frequently in the financial world as well. Many very sophisticated students of finance have commented on how hard it is, saying the market can stay irrational longer than you can stay liquid, I think is George Soros’s expression. So, “off on timing” is a fairly popular belief-system defense as well. And I predicted that Canada would be gone. And you know what? It’s not gone yet. But just hold on.

DUBNER: You answered very economically when I asked you what are the characteristics of a bad predictor; you used one word, dogmatismm. What are the characteristics, then, of a good one?

TETLOCK: Capacity for constructive self-criticism.

DUBNER: How does that self-criticism come into play and actually change the course of the prediction?

TETLOCK: Well, one sign that you’re capable of constructive self-criticism is that you’re not dumbfounded by the question: What would it take to convince you you’re wrong? If you can’t answer that question you can take that as a warning sign.

DUBNER: In his study, Tetlock found that one factor was more important than any other in someone’s predictive ability: cognitive style. You know the story about the fox and the hedgehog?

TETLOCK: Isaiah Berlin tells us that the quotation comes from the Greek warrior poet Archilichus 2,500 years ago. And the rough translation was the fox knows many things but the hedgehog knows one big thing.

DUBNER: So, talk to me about what the foxes do as predictors and what the hedgehogs do as predictors.

TETLOCK: Sure. The foxes tend to have a rather eclectic, opportunistic approach to forecasting. They’re very pragmatic. A famous aphorism by Deng Xiaoping was he “didn’t care if the cat was white or black as long as it caught mice.” And I think the attitude of many foxes is they really didn’t care whether ideas came from the left or the right, they tended to deploy them rather flexibly in deriving predictions. So they often borrowed ideas across schools of thought that hedgehogs viewed as more sacrosanct. There are many subspecies of hedgehog. But what they have in common is a tendency to approach forecasting as a deductive, top-down exercise. They start off with some abstract principles, and they apply those abstract principles to messy, real-world situations, and the fit is often decidedly imperfect.

DUBNER: So foxes tend to be less dogmatic than hedgehogs, which makes them better predictors. But, if you had to guess, who do you think more likely to show up TV or in an op-ed column, the pragmatic, nuanced fox or the know-it-all hedgehog?

[SOUND MONTAGE]

DUBNER: You got it!

TETLOCK: Hedgehogs, I think, are more likely to offer quotable sound bites, whereas foxes are more likely to offer rather complex, caveat-laden sound bites. They’re not sound bites anymore if they’re complex and caveat-laden.

DUBNER: So, if you were to gain control of let’s say a really big media outlet, New York Times, or NBC TV, and you said, you know, I want to dispense a different kind of news and analysis to the public, what would you do? How would you suggest building a mechanism to do a better job of keeping all this kind of poor expert prediction out of the, off the airwaves.

TETLOCK: I’m so glad you asked that question. I have some specific ideas about that. And I don’t think they would be all that difficult to implement. I think they should try to keep score more. I think there’s remarkably little effort in tracking accuracy. If you happen to be someone like Tom Friedman or Paul Krugman, or someone who’s at the top of the pundit pecking order, there’s very little incentive for you to want to have your accuracy tested because your followers are quite convinced that you’re extremely accurate, and it’s pretty much a game you can only lose.

DUBNER: Can you imagine? Every time a pundit appeared on TV, the network would list his batting average, right after his name and affiliation. You think that might cut down on blowhard predictions just a little bit? Looking back at what we’ve learned so far, it makes me wonder: maybe the first step toward predicting the future should be to acknowledge our limitations. Or–at the very least–let’s start small. For instance: if I could tell you what kind of music I like, and then you could predict for me some other music I’d want to hear. That actually already exists. It’s called Pandora Radio. Here’s co-founder Tim Westergren.

Tim WESTERGREN: So, what we’ve done is, we’ve broken down recordings into their basic components for every dimension of melody, harmony, and rhythm, and form, and instrumentation, down into kind of the musical equivalent of primary colors.

DUBNER: The Pandora database includes more than a million songs, across every genre that you or I could name. Each song is broken down into as many as 480 musical attributes, almost like genetic code. Pandora’s organizing system is in fact called the “Music Genome Project.” You tell the Pandora website a song you like, and it rummages through that massive genetic database to make an educated guess about what you want to hear next. If you like that song, you press the thumbs-up button, and Pandora takes note.

WESTERGREN: I wouldn’t make the claim that Pandora can map your emotional persona. And I also don’t think frankly that Pandora can predict a hit because I think it is very hard, it’s a bit of a magic, that’s what makes music so fantastic. So, I think that we know our limitations, but within those limitations I think that we make it much, much more likely that you’re going to find that song that just really touches you.

DUBNER: So Tim, you were good enough to set up a station for me here. It’s called “Train in Vain Radio.” So the song we gave you was “Train in Vain.” So let me open up my radio station here and I’ll hit play and see what you got for me.

[MUSIC PLAYS]

DUBNER: Oh yeah. Yeah I like them, that’s The Jam, so I’m going to give it a thumbs up I like “Town Called Malice.” .on my little window here. I think there are a couple more songs in my station here.

[MUSIC PLAYS]

“Television” by Tom Verlaine, he was always too cool for me. I can see why you would think that I would like them, and I appreciate your effort, Mr. Pandora. How about you, were you a “Television” fan?

WESTERGREN: Yeah, yeah. And you know, one thing of course is that the songs are all rooted in guitar riffs.

DUBNER: Yep.

WESTERGREN: There’s a repetitive motif played on the guitar. And a similar sound and they’ve got a little twang– and they’re played kind of rambly, a little bit rough, there’s a sort of punk element in there. The vocals have over twenty attributes just for the voice. In this case these are pretty unpolished vocal deliveries.

DUBNER: I got to tell you that even though when this song came up, and I’ve heard this song a few times, and I told you I didn’t like Television very much, this song, I’m kind of digging it now.

WESTERGREN: See, there you go, that’s exactly what we’re trying to do.

DUBNER: So, it’s a really great thing to do, but it’s not really predicting the future the way most people think of it as predicting the future, is it?

WESTERGREN: Well, I certainly wouldn’t have put our mission in the same category as predicting the economy, or, you know, geopolitical futures. But you know, the average American listens to 17 hours of music a week. So, they spend a lot of time doing it, and I think that if we can make that a more enjoyable experience and more personalized, I think maybe we’ll make some kind of meaningful contribution to culture.

DUBNER: So Pandora does a pretty good job of predicting the music you might want to hear, based on what you already know you like. But again, look how much effort that takes — 480 musical attributes! And it’s not really predicting the future, is it? All Pandora does is breaks down the confirmed musical preferences of one person today and comes up with some more music that’ll fulfill that same person’s preferences tomorrow. If we really want to know the future, we probably need to get much more ambitious. We probably need a whole new model. Like, how about prediction markets?

Robin HANSON: A prediction market is basically like a betting market or a speculative market, like orange juice futures or stock markets, things like that. The mechanics is that there’s a — an asset of some sort that pays off if something’s true, like whether a, a person wins the presidency or a team wins a sporting contest. And people trade that asset and the price of that asset becomes then a forecast of whether that claim is likely to be true.

DUBNER: That’s Robin Hanson, an economics professor at George Mason University and an admitted advocate of prediction markets. As Hanson sees it, a prediction market is far more reliable than other forecasting methods because it addresses the pesky incentive problems of the old-time prediction industry.

HANSON: So a prediction market gives people an incentive, a clear personal incentive to be right and not wrong. Equally important, it gives people an incentive to shut up when they don’t know, which is often a problem with many of our other institutions. So if you as a reporter call up almost any academic and and ask them vaguely related questions, they’ll typically try to answer them, just because they want to be heard. But in a prediction market most people don’t speak up. Every one of your listeners today had the right to go speak up on orange juice futures yesterday. Every one of you could have gone and said, orange juice futures forecasts are too low or too high, and almost no one did. Why? Because most of you don’t think you know. And that’s just the way we want it.So in most of these prediction markets what we want is the few people who know the best to speak up and everybody else to shut up.

DUBNER: Prediction markets are flourishing. Some of them are private — a multinational firm might set up an internal market to try to forecast when a big project will be done. And there are for-profit prediction markets like InTrade, based in Dublin, where you can place a bet on, say, whether any country that currently uses the Euro will drop the Euro by the end of the year. (As I speak, that bet has a 15% chance on InTrade.) Here’s another InTrade bet: whether there’ll be a successful WMD terrorist attack anywhere in the world by the end of 2013. (That’s got a 28% chance.) Now that’s starting to sound a little edgy, no? Betting on terrorism? Robin Hanson himself has a little experience in this area, on a U.S. government project he worked on.

HANSON: All right, so — back in 2000, DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, had heard about prediction markets, and they decided to fund a research project. And they basically said, listen, we’ve heard this is useful for other things, we’d like you to show us that this can be useful for the kind of topics we are interested in. Our project was going to be forecasting geopolitical trends in the Middle East. We were going to show that prediction markets could tell you about economic growth, about riots, about perhaps wars, about whether the changes of heads of state… and how these things would interact with each other.

DUBNER: In 2003, just as the project was about to go live, the press heard about it.

HANSON: On Monday morning two senators had a press conference where they declared that the — DARPA, the — and the military were going to have a betting market on terrorism.

HANSON: And so, there was a sudden burst of media coverage and by the very next morning the head of the military basically declared before the Senate that this project was dead, and there was nothing more to worry about.

DUBNER: What do you think you — we collectively, you, in particular — would know now about that part of the world, let’s say, if this market had been allowed to take root?

HANSON: Well, I think we would have gotten much earlier warning about the revolutions we just had. And if we would have had participants from the Middle East forecasting those markets. Not only we would get advanced warning about which things might happen, but then how our actions could affect those. So, for example, the United States just came in on the side of the Libyan rebels, to support the Libya rebels against the Qaddafi regime. What’s the chances that will actually help the situation, as opposed to make it worse?

DUBNER: But give me an example of what you consider among the hardest problems that a prediction market could potentially help solve?

HANSON: Who should — not only who should we elect for president but whether we should go to war here or whether we should begin this initiative? Or should we approve this reform bill for medicine, etc.

DUBNER: So that sounds very logical, very appealing. How realistic is it?

HANSON: Well, it depends on there being a set of customers who want this product. So, you know, if prediction markets have an Achilles heel, it’s certainly the possibility that people don’t really want accurate forecasts.

DUBNER: Prediction markets put a price on accountability. If you’re wrong, you pay, simple as that. Just like the proposed law against the witches in Romania. Maybe that’s what we need more of. Here’s Steve Levitt again:

LEVITT: When there are big rewards to people who make predictions and get them right, and there are zero punishments for people who make bad predictions because they’re immediately forgotten, then economists would predict that’s a recipe for getting people to make predictions all the time.

DUBNER: Because the incentives are all encouraging you to make predictions.

LEVITT: Absolutely.

DUBNER: If you get it right there’s an upside, and if you get it wrong there’s almost no downside.

LEVITT: Right, if the flipside were that if I make a false prediction I’m immediately sent to prison for a one-year term, there would be almost no prediction.

DUBNER: And all those football pundits and political pundits and financial pundits wouldn’t be able to wriggle out of their bad calls — saying “My idea was right, but my timing was wrong.” Maybe that’s how everybody does it. That big storm the weatherman called but never showed up? “Oh, it happened all right,” he says, “but two states over.” Or how about those predictions for the End of the World — the Apocalypse, the Rapture, all that? “Well,” they say, “we prayed so hard that God decided to spare us.”

Remember back in May, when an 89-year-old preacher named Harold Camping declared that the Earth would be destroyed at 5:59 p.m. on a Saturday, and only the true believers would survive? I remember it very well because my 10-year-old son was petrified. I tried telling him that Camping was a kook — that anybody can say pretty much anything they want about the future. It didn’t help; he couldn’t get to sleep at night.

And then the 21st came and went and he was psyched. “I knew it all along, Dad,” he said.

Then I asked him what he thought should happen to Harold Camping, the false Doomsday prophet. “Oh, that’s easy,” he said. “Off with his head!”

My son is not a bloodthirsty type. But he’s not a turkey either.

Freakonomics Poll: When It Comes to Predictions, Whom Do You Trust? (Freakonomics.com)

FREAKONOMICS

09/16/2011 | 11:27 am

Our latest Freakonomics Radio podcast, “The Folly of Prediction,” is built around the premise that humans love to predict the future, but are generally terrible at it. (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen live via the media player above, or read the transcript here.)

There are a host of professions built around predicting some future outcome: from predicting the score of a sports match, to forecasting the weather for the weekend, to being able to tell what the stock market is going to do tomorrow. But is anyone actually good at it?

From your experience, which experts do you trust for predictions?

  • None of the Above (39%, 447 Votes)
  • Meteorologists (37%, 414 Votes)
  • Economists (14%, 158 Votes)
  • Sports Experts (9%, 98 Votes)
  • Political Pundits (1%, 16 Votes)
  • Stock Market Analysts (1%, 10 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,132

Unshakeable stereotypes of science (New Scientist)

13 September 2011 by Roger Highfield
Magazine issue 2829.

Science has transformed our world, so why does the public have such an old-fashioned view of scientists, asks Quentin Cooper

What is the problem with the public’s image of scientists?
If you ask anyone, they will tell you that science has transformed their world with amazing discoveries. But then if you invite them to draw a scientist, what they depict is precisely what people would have described 50 years ago, back when the anthropologist Margaret Mead came up with what we now call the “draw a scientist” test.

How do people generally depict scientists?
It is uncanny: they draw someone with a hangdog look, frizzy hair and test tube in hand, all in a scene where things are going wrong. There are national variations. In Italy, scientists tend to be scarred and have bolts in their necks, like Frankenstein’s monster. In general, though, they are mostly white, male, bald and wearing a white coat. No wonder we have a problem recruiting scientists.

What do you think of attempts to make scientists cool, like the Studmuffins of Science calendar and GQ’s Rock Stars of Science?
They are doomed because for geek calendars and suchlike to work, they have to bounce off the stereotype. As a result, they reinforce it.

On TV there are plenty of science presenters who defy the stereotype, such as the physicist Brian Cox. Surely that helps?
It is true. They are not all white, male and old. Some have hair. Some, like Brian, arguably have too much! But while people know them and are familiar with their TV programmes, it is surprising what happens when you ask the public about their favourite science presenters. In the UK they usually nominate veterans, such as David Attenborough. In fact, in the last poll I saw, half the people could not name a TV science presenter. They don’t seem to recognise them as scientists because they don’t conform to the stereotype.

And this stereotype also applies to the best known scientist of all time, Einstein?
The image of the old Einstein with tongue out is the one everyone knows – the one taken on his 72nd birthday. But he was a dapper 26-year-old when he had his “annus mirabilis” and wrote the four papers that changed physics.

What do you think about the depiction of scientists in films?
What I find striking is you almost never see scientists on screen unless they are doing science. There are very few characters who happen to be scientists. And those scientists shown tend to be at best eccentric, at worst mad and/or evil.

How can we improve the image of scientists?
Even though the “draw a scientist” test started half a century ago, it was only in the 1980s that someone had the idea of introducing children to a real scientist after they had drawn one, and then asking them to have another go at drawing. One of my favourite examples is of the schoolgirl who initially drew a man with frizzy hair and a white coat, but afterwards depicted a smiling young woman holding a test tube. Above it is the word “me”. I still find myself choking up when I show it.

Profile
Quentin Cooper is a science journalist and presenter of the BBC radio programme Material World. He is hosting the Cabaret of the Elements at the British Science Festival in Bradford on 10 September.

We Need To Do More When It Comes To Having Brief, Panicked Thoughts About Climate Change (The Onion)

COMMENTARY
BY RHETT STEVENSON
SEPTEMBER 6, 2011 | ISSUE 47•36

The 20 hottest years on record have all taken place in the past quarter century. The resulting floods, wildfires, and heat waves have all had deadly consequences, and if we don’t reduce carbon emissions immediately, humanity faces bleak prospects. We can no longer ignore this issue. Beginning today, we must all do more when it comes to our brief and panicked thoughts about climate change.

Indeed, if there was ever a time when a desperate call to take action against global warming should race through our heads as we lie in bed and stare at the ceiling, that time is now.

Many well-intentioned people will take 20 seconds out of their week to consider the consequences of the lifestyle they’ve chosen, perhaps contemplating how their reliance on fossil fuels has contributed to the rapid melting of the Arctic ice cap. But if progress is what we truly want, 20 seconds is simply not enough. Not by a long shot. An issue this critical demands at least 45 seconds to a solid minute of real, concentrated panic.

And I’m not talking about letting the image of a drowning polar bear play out in your mind now and then. If we’re at all serious, we need to let ourselves occasionally be struck with grim visions of coastal cities washing away and people starving as drought-stricken farmlands fail to yield crops—and we need to do this regularly, every couple days or so, before continuing to go about our routines as usual.

This may seem like a lot to ask, but no one ever said making an effort to think about change was easy.

So if you pick up a newspaper and see an article about 10 percent of all living species going extinct by the end of the century, don’t just turn the page. Stop, peruse it for a moment, look at the photos, freak out for a few seconds, and then turn the page.

And the next time you start up your car, stop to think how the exhaust from your vehicle and millions of others like it contributes to air pollution, increasing the likelihood that a child in your neighborhood will develop asthma or other respiratory ailments. Take your time with it. Feel the full, crushing weight of that guilt. Then go ahead and drive wherever it was you wanted to go.

To do anything less is irresponsible.

Suppose you’ve just sat down in a crisply air-conditioned movie theater. Why not take the length of a preview or two to consider the building’s massive carbon footprint? Imagine those greenhouse gases trapped in the atmosphere, disrupting ecosystems and causing infectious diseases to spread rampantly, particularly in regions of the world where the poorest people live. Visualize massive storm systems cutting widespread swaths of destruction. Think of your children’s children dying horrible, unnecessary deaths.

You might even go so far as to experience actual physical symptoms: shaking, hyperventilation, perhaps even a heart palpitation. These are entirely appropriate responses to have, and the kinds of reactions each of us ought to have briefly before casting such worries aside to enjoy Conan The Barbarian.

Ultimately, however, our personal moments of distress won’t matter much unless our government intervenes with occasional mentions of climate change in important speeches, or by passing nonbinding legislation on the subject. I implore you: Spend a couple minutes each year imagining yourself writing impassioned letters to your elected representatives demanding a federal cap on emissions.

Global warming must be met with immediate, short-lasting feelings of overwhelming dread, or else life as we know it will truly cease—oh, God, there’s nothing we can do, is there? Maybe we’re already too late. What am I supposed to do? Unplug my refrigerator? I recycle, I take shorter showers than I used to, doesn’t that count for something? Devastating famines and brutal wars fought over dwindling resources? Is that my fault? Jesus, holy shit, someone do something! Tell me what to do! For the love of God, what can possibly be done?

There you have it. I’ve done my part. Now it’s your turn.