Possible Insight

Archive for the ‘Climate’ Category

Willie Smits Is a Genius

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Rafe posted this TED talk by Willie Smits without much commentary. I would like to add some.  When I first started watching, I thought, “Wow, you can make a lot of hay out of simply applying Econ 101.”  This was in response to the fact that they bought the former rainforest land in question, making it private property.  This is one of the classic solutions to a Tragedy of the Commons problem.  But then my appreciation made an exponential run upward.

Somehow, he managed to perfectly balance the economic and ecological package into a rapidly growing and self-sustaining system.  You see, he had to figure out how much economic benefit the land could generate at each point in time and never have more than the corresponding number of people working the land.  He had to figure out how to mesh psychological factors with incentive structures to get the locals to adopt the land both socially and economically. He also had to plot the path for an ecosystem in time and space.

Each of these three prongs represents an effort to control a dynamic system and he had to mesh all of them at once.  He makes it sound obvious in retrospect, but make no mistake, this is a feat of sheer brilliance.  I think there are some good general lessons to learn from this, but the real ongoing value is in the human capital he has built for managing this process.  He should cycle through groups of apprentices that then go forth and attempt to replicate this miracle.  I really hope this lasts and expands in the long term.

Written by Kevin

March 21, 2009 at 7:49 pm

Posted in Climate, Economics

Tagged with ,

Climate Shifts as a Complex Systems Property

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Via a post at the always terrific Watts Up with That, a pre publication version of this paper examines the non-linear coupling dynamics of the climate. Its hypothesis is based on the mathematics of synchronized chaos (sorry, no good introductory link available).

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Written by Kevin

March 16, 2009 at 7:10 pm

But I Was Probably Right About Climate Models

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I try not to practice false modesty (those of you who know me well probably just did a spit take at that understatement).  So while I try to stand up and admit when I’m wrong, I also like to stand up and point out where I’m right.

It shouldn’t be a surprise to any of you that I came to the conclusion that climate models are pretty much total bullshit. My problem with them is that they are incomplete, overfitted, and unproven.  It turns out that one of the foremost experts on forecasting in general also thinks that these models have no predictive value. In fact, items (6) and (7) of their statement shows that you can predict the future temperature really well simply by saying it will be the same as the current temperature.

You can read their more formal indictment of climate forecasting methods here.

Oh snap!

Written by Kevin

January 29, 2009 at 2:29 pm

Posted in Climate, Models, Science

Tagged with , ,

Don't Cop Out on Knightian Uncertainty

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I apologize for the posting lull. I actually spotted an issue than I wanted to address a few weeks ago, but I’ve been pondering how to approach it.  It’s pretty complicated and subtle.  I even ran a couple of drafts by Rafe to refine my thinking.  So please bear with me.

As I’ve mentioned before, I am a fan of Dave Zetland. When I saw him propagate what I think is a fundamentally false dichotomy in this post, I knew I had to take on the concept of Knightian uncertainty. It crops up rather often in discussions of forecasting complex systems and I think a lot of people use it as a cop out.

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Written by Kevin

September 19, 2008 at 7:00 pm