Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Is McCain's Internet Illiteracy a Bad Thing?

There was recent comment that it is troubling McCain is an admitted computer ignoramus, while Obama uses the internet to look up sports scores. I imagine very few 72 year-old executives could even find boobies on the internet if you didn't let them click on their spam (he called Google "The Google").

But if I had a judge who either knew nothing about statistics, versus one who took one course in college and has used Excel's "linest()" function, I'm not sure this limited knowledge would be better than none. Often, a little education is worse than none at all, because, like Taleb thinking Gaussian distributions are presumed perfect by people who use them, many people learn just enough to make them dangerous. The most common statistical vice is judging models primarily by their R2's, and those are people who know a little, but only a little, about econometrics. Or people who apply a train-test-validate approach, repeatedly, find the highest 'validation' result and think it was all 'out of sample.' MBAs learn that beta is a measure of risk, and returns are a linear function of beta. They are sheep to be shorn. I think I didn't really understand statistics until I TA'd for the course three times.

Someone totally ignorant will have no overconfidence in his ability judge matters. Ideally, a decider knows a lot. But choosing between a decider who know's nothing and a little on a subject? I think I'd take the complete ignoramus, he would be more cautious.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

thanks for bringing this up. I see so much data mining around recently that I thought I fell behind on some academic findings.

is there any way to adjust for the in-sample findings besides splitting the data in 2, test/validate on the first half and try forecasting on the last half?

Eric Falkenstein said...

Whatever mechanical mechanism measures 'out-of-sample' can be gamed, because an outsider never knows how many times, how many sets of inputs or functional forms, were tried. This is why one needs theory as much as data. Ultimately, you do your best to present the data out of sample, recognizing it is not in some sense, and try not to 'data mine' in an indiscriminate way, and look for other data to corroborate your sample's findings.

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't somebody who was an ignoramus not know enough to be cautious?

Do you think that our current President's ignrance about muslim culture, society, and history made him more cautious or less cautious when it came time to invade Iraq? This is a guy who threw around the word "Crusade" and told them to "bring it on". Not things you would do if you understood Arab history and machismo.

Barry said...

I think the current President proves the opposite of your rule. He is ignorant and completely confident in his decisions.
We had ignoramus deciders here who decided that we could only report means of teaching ratings not standard deviations. I think I would prefer even the moderately informed to them.

JasonHolderness said...

So let me get this straight. You think someone who is completely stupid on a subject will make a better decision when faced with the facts as he understands them, than someone who has a general idea of the facts being laid out before him.

That sounds a little ill-conceived. And I think Bush's presidency proved that approach doesn't work.

Patrick said...

Only someone who is aware of their ignorance is cautious

and those are the people we call wise

A person like that wouldn't think that being spoonfed information from their aides gives them enough perspective and knowledge to make the decisions to lead a country

So I'm pretty sure we are dealing with blind ignorance here with McCain (and Bush as well for that matter), and a lack of exposure to knowledge that show them their ignorance

Setting ourselves up for the fall electing leaders like this;
I would like to see a comparison of McCains versus Obama's school grades
I'll bet their is huge contrast there as well

demps said...

It is unbelievable that in 2008 a presidential candidate in the United States of America does NOT use the Internet! How can a man claim his opponent is out of touch with the American people when he does not utilize the single most important technology in human history? This is the epitome of the old guard attempting to resist change in a world that will never allow tomorrow to be just like yesterday. Absolutely unbelievable!!!