« On technical regress | Main | The interest burden in context »

June 13, 2010



This is what statistics is for, surely? Don't just look at the UK on its own, take a look at dozens of countries all doing their thing, and work out correlations and so on to see who had the best policies.

Jo Jordan

How many issues here?

1. Narratives and sensemaking

2. Culture and blame

3. The role of prediction vs the role of management (and therefore the role of 'managerial autoposy' and 'lessons learned')

We can work on predictions when we have many cases. The effect size is usually small and we can only rule out extreme events anyway (like putting a 10 year old in goal).

Management is another issue. It is a matter of managing unfolding events that are co-created with our competitors and all other essentially random factors. Unfolding in real time is what it is all about. We can't predict the outcome (and nor do we want to despite striving for a preferred outcome).

It strikes me that many English fans don't like being part of a real world event. They want a script of "we won" (we beat them?). The only way to be sure of victory is to film it in advance and play it back on closed circuit TV.

As British poet David Whyte says
"I want to know if you are willing to live, day by day, with the consequence of love and the bitter unwanted passion of your sure defeat. I have heard, in that fierce embrace, even the gods speak of God."

Competition is both winning and losing. (And sportsmen who can't lose should stay off the field?)

Of course, being bad sports sets us up for great sport in other countries who take us much pleasure in our squirming as the game itself. Of course, there are worse out there but in the interest of sportmanship, we won't name them. But out of devilment, I'll quickly log in to see what happened in their matches!


I think a really really important thing that most people never grasp is what would happen if the match were played again.

Imagine if we played the match again, and wiped everyone's memories (impossible, I know, but humour me). The result of the match would not be the same as the 1-1 draw we had. Gerrard would be unlikely to score his 4th minute goal and Green would never have let that ball slip out of his hands.

In the absence of known probabilities, the outcome where Gerrard doesn't score early and the USA never get their reality check allows England to ramp on to 2-0 is equally likely.

But people can never grasp the fact that the match would be different if it were played again - people always see the outcome as preordained.

In my view this is one of the many problems with humanity - most people have an overly deterministic, rather than stochastic, view of the world.


"But people can never grasp the fact that the match would be different if it were played again - people always see the outcome as preordained."

I'm not entirely sure I see your point. Are you saying that if, at the end of the match, we'd rewound the clock 90 minutes and set it running again, the outcome could've been different? If so, that's false. There is no match where Gerrard didn't score in the 4th minute.

If you're saying that the starting positions of the players and the universe weren't exactly the same, then sure there would be a stochastic element to that. But that can't happen, as there was only ever one starting position for those particles. Just because humanity is fallible in what information it has of a physical system, such that we model it stochastically, that doesn't mean its not deterministic.


This is a problem of experimentation. Many specific human activities and natural processes cannot be the subject of an experiment because they are specific events that cannot be repeated. So if we theorise about them (however rationally) we can never confirm the theory because we can never replay the event with different controlling parameters. In others words, many things happen but we cannot say why. Rationally we should not expect to, frustrating though it may be.


I like the way Christopher Chabris describes this problem: "History is one long anecdote" http://bit.ly/9UTxyU

moncler outlets

Excellent post. It makes me realize the energy of words and pictures. I learn a lot, thank you! Wish you make a further progress in the future.

The comments to this entry are closed.

blogs I like

Blog powered by Typepad