Political scientist Philip Tetlock has spent decades quantitatively studying who has and who hasn’t the ability to forecast world events better than random guesses. I’ve been intermittently following his spook-funded Good Judgement Project in which people volunteer to compete for 12 months at answering questions like this one from last year:
Will China seize control of the Second Thomas Shoal before 1 January 2014 if the Philippines structurally reinforces the BRP Sierra Madre beforehand? (The answer is supposed to come as probability and can be updated daily if desired.)
A participant who has reached Tetlock’s coveted “superforecaster” level modestly explained to me:
And yes, the “supers” consistently beat everyone else, but I think it has a lot to with self-selection for folks willing to google on regular basis information pertaining to completely weird stuff …
As you can imagine, it requires more or less the same mentality as the one demonstrated by those tireless Wikipedia editors.
As you’ll recall, one of the ongoing crises of our age is that tireless Wikipedia editors tend to be overwhelmingly male.
Similarly, in a new post on the Good Judgment Project’s own blog about the lack of diversity among the virtually unpaid volunteers (I believe there is a $150 honorarium, or pennies per hour) mentions that only 7% of the superforecasters are women, Karen Ruth Adams reports on a Good Judgment Project convention:
… I was also surprised to see few women. It wasn’t that I expected a 50/50 ratio. I thought women would be 25-33% of forecasters, mirroring the percentage of women among American faculty in political science, security scholars at the International Studies Association, policy analysts and leadership staff at Washington think tanks, and senior US national security and foreign policy officials. Instead I learned from GJP researcher Pavel Atanasov that at the beginning of Season 3 (Fall 2013), women were just 17% of GJP forecasters. By the end of the season (Spring 2014), women had dropped out at higher rates (35%) than men (29%). Among this year’s superforecasters, just 7% are women.
It’s almost as if women prefer to work hard in return for tangible rewards, such as a paycheck or their loved ones’ well-being. If you want people to work hard just for the satisfaction of being Right on the Internet, well, you’re probably going to wind up with a lot of men.