A pharmacist in her 60s named Elaine Rich routinely forecasts world events 30% more accurately than professional intelligence officers, NPR reports.
Rich — who researches world affairs using nothing more than a Google search — is one of 3,000 participants in The Good Judgement Project.
The project, created by three psychologists and funded in part by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, was put together in an effort to test the wisdom of the crowd.
The average predictions from the project are frequently more accurate than official forecasts from intelligence officers — even when intelligence officers have access to classified information. The predictions include questions such as how “likely will a new North Korean missile launch be?”
The project is based around the wisdom of the crowd principle, the theory that the average estimation of a large enough number of people is likely to be accurate. So, predictions from 3,000 people will typically fall closer to the mark than the predictions of a handful of extremely well versed intelligence officers.
“There’s a lot of noise, a lot of statistical random variation,” Phil Tetlock, a co-founder of the study, told NPR. “But it’s random variation around a signal, a true signal, and when you add all of the random variation on each side of the true signal together, you get closer to the true signal.”
The intelligence officers who helped form the study are intrigued by the results. Although they do not see crowdsourcing analysis as the future of forecasting, they do believe it could be a useful complement.
For her part, Rich just happens to be “curiously good at predicting future world events,” according to NPR.
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