In performing Thinking Bigly, it’s clear to me that we (ie my friends as sample) don’t know the long way we have come in many important ways eg women’s vote, life expectancy or childhood cancer. (These are points that Hans Rosling and Steven Pinker make). That’s the positive stuff.
Nor, that in the climate change challenges, the challenge from land use/food is about the same as the challenge from energy/electricity use (about 20 to 25% of the problem each). As in, most of us have barely put our minds around the root causes of the challenges. That’s on the negative stuff.
Still, skepticism on “experts” as regards to complex systems and human behaviour is warranted.
Take this recent rather amazing real world experiment on returning wallets.
Most experts (economist in this case, but not all, with a good 3/10 being right) predicted that it was more likely that wallets with no money would be returned vs wallets with some money in them. (This is what non-expert thought too).
The results across almost every country is that it’s much more likely to have your wallet returned if you had money in it.
This highlights that we are typically not good at predicting human behavior (although it seems some of us can). I expect the real life data is also very different to how we would respond in a survey.
Increasingly, I put limited weight on lab-based social science experiments. They simply don’t apply in the real world.
Study here: Civic honesty is essential to social capital and economic development, but is often in conflict with material self-interest. We examine the trade-off between honesty and self-interest using field experiments in 355 cities spanning 40 countries around the globe. We turned in over 17,000 lost wallets with varying amounts of money at public and private institutions, and measured whether recipients contacted the owner to return the wallets. In virtually all countries citizens were more likely to return wallets that contained more money. Both non-experts and professional economists were unable to predict this result. Link here.
Brief details on my perform-lecture: Thinking Bigly here.