Thursday, June 23, 2011

Economists Not Only Bad Forecasters

This Bloggingheads clip highlights that the space program has been very disappointing. I remember all the accolades for astronauts and our space program as this was not only dangerous and difficult, but supposedly really important. It would supposedly help us manufacture drugs, create moon colonies, etc. The whole manned space flight program since Apollo has been a failure, producing absolutely zero new scientific theories or data.

In announcing the first rough draft of the human 'book of life' at a White House ceremony in the summer of 2000, President Bill Clinton predicted that the genome project would 'revolutionize the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of most, if not all, human diseases.' That hasn't happened, and is doubtful.

I think this highlights the problems predicting the future in anything, from dividends, to science, to politics. It's easy with hindsight to see how irrational past beliefs were, and it would be interesting to know how much of conventional wisdom was held by people who had a lot of common sense. I have a suspicion the seemingly bad predictions were from the media, which is populated by journalists, who as a class I find rather ignorant (when I was a TA at Northwestern which has a 'good' journalism school, we had big intro classes and they listed the colleges the kids were from, and they always followed the same g-loaded order: Engineering, Arts and Science, Journalism).


Anonymous said...

It's only a failure if people really believed those things. But they don't. People support the space program because rockets are cool. The moon landing was the greatest stunt in history.

But you can't say that. It's not respectable. Not serious. So you drag in "science" and the rest.

Anonymous said...


I think you are being to fast to dismiss the impact that knowledge of the human genome will have in understanding and treating disease. More than 5000 genes are known already to cause or predispose to disease.

Knowledge is growing exponentially. Therapies are coming despite regulatory delays.

Crocodile Chuck said...


Anyone could have seen through the lines spun by NASA at the time-sending spiders into space to see how zero G affected web spinning? Come on! It was all a cover for its actual mission as a bus for military reconnaissance satellites.

HumanGenomeProject: Results to date v funny. Let's wait forty or fifty years.....when we begin to understand how the proteome really functions (the complement of enzymes and structural proteins within each cell)