Scott Adams, “who once made financial projections for a living” – back in the 1980s and 1990s when he did odd jobs for telecommunications companies after leaving his job as a bank teller – thinks being off by several times reality is “not bad.”
As someone who has spent decades crafting financial models myself, I’d say that is probably why he now draws a snarky comic strip for a living. (No, I do not care that that is a low blow. I’m not going to be polite to people who push manias and panics.) That work ethic would certainly get you canned from any reputable financial institution (well, except maybe Wells Fargo – they like reporting fake numbers). The whole point of modeling is to get as close to reality as possible. There is no purpose for a model beyond its predictive ability.
It doesn’t get you canned in academia, however, which is why we need to have a serious and honest conversation in this country about what kinds of people influence public policy. There are people in the tech industry who could model the spread of disease much better than the academics the government has been using. We don’t need to be relying on people who have nothing at stake for policy advice. “Eh, I broke the global economy and put millions of people out of work, but at least I have tenure.”
As I have said many times here, these models are not making any complicated assumptions about human behavior. That’s sort of their core problem, actually. And anyone who has ever worked in quantitative analysis recognized that immediately.
This is one of the things that cracks me up about social media. You have a cartoonist talking about best modeling practices for no other reason than he’s built a MAGA following (that I hope now regards him with skepticism). You have celebrities who think 5G communications towers created the coronavirus (not going to lie, I am kind of curious how they think that works mechanically) or that it is an evil government plot to kill Boomer women. And celebrities who think the coronavirus is a great time to learn a new language or let your pores go make-up free, so let’s just make the best of an economic depression. It’s people like this who amplify bad information over and over and over again.
Someone was saying people on social media need to replace #OKBoomer with #OKDoomer to start shaming these people for continuing to push panic at this point. I’m not on social media, otherwise I probably would be getting banned for doing that by now. But I do like the idea of reverse social media mobs.