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bemildred

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Gender: Male
Hometown: LA/CA/Left Coast
Home country: Amurkin
Current location: Amurka
Member since: 2002
Number of posts: 77,411

About Me

Only intelligent beings can care what happens, it\'s a big responsibility.

Journal Archives

That is not correct.

The probability that a roll of your die will be a 6 is 1/6 th, REGARDLESS of any past series of rolls. That is what random MEANS, that there is no correlation from try to try, the past does not predict the future, AT ALL.

It is precisely that which justifies these meta-poll studies, that the polls are each separate tries, and hence (by their randomness) independent as sample data. (This is quite questionable too. Pollsters are poll junkies.)

The technical usage has a technical definition, which is correct. That does not mean the choice of the word "confidence" has the correct non-technical connotations, and as I said, in fact it's wrong, 95% probability is not 95% confidence about any try in particular, each try is ASSUMED independent, non-repeatable, and without replacement, "confidence" suggests "assurance", and that misleads, you have no such thing, you are still gambling. The entire system is built on the premise that each try is independent, that every time you ask the question, it is new.

A 95% confidence interval is a range in which the sample is expected to fall 95% of the time, the other 5% of the time it is expected to fall outside, and you are just as "confident" about the accuracy of the 5% as about the 95%, no more and no less.

At best, what polls provide is a crude heuristic that (done well) a sophisticated observer can interpret with some "confidence". Note that "confidence" is something someone has, an opinion, something one could sample too. I'm pretty "confident" at this point that Barak Obama will be the next President, barring "accidents". But I also know the present does not compel the future, it's just an educated guess based on a structured investigation.

I can go on. This is just scratching the surface, the easy stuff, we can get into Mr. Taleb's bootstrap issues with distributions, which are obvious to anyone with mathematical training and the will to look, for example. They annoyed me when I studied the subject 30 years ago, and they still do. There is nothing normal about the "normal distribution". The real world does not in fact exhibit zeroes or infinities or continuity, it is discrete, quantized, finite, and always something. Even "empty space" is far from empty. Velocity is relative (no absolute rest) and finite (less than the speed of light relative to any particular inertial frame). The uses of such notions in the physical world are all based in the laws of large numbers, probability and combinatorics, and all the physical constants that we know with great precision likewise.

Most of the more responsible pollsters seem to know that some of these issues exist, their rhetoric shows, but all the financial incentives run the other way, toward claims of certainty or some near approximation, or to show some desired "trend", a notion which you will see wanders off completely into the brush of cause and effect thinking.

There is a fundamental contradiction between assuming in one place that people form random populations you can sample randomly, by language no less, and in another, that people's behavior exhibits serial correlation (cause and effect, "confidence" about the future) over time, too. This I have seen mentioned, but I've never seen it really addressed at all.

People want confidence, assurance, security if you will, but that is wishing, we have no such thing and we need to pay attention, not be running around fat, dumb, happy, and full of ourselves because we think we know what's coming next. We don't.

I hope this at least clarifies what I base my views on.

A short explanation of why Prop 32 is bad:

1.) The proposition offers us a deal: if we give up unions as a political force, we get in return removal of corporations as a political force. So it appears "fair" if you think of unions and corporations as equivalent sorts of things because they are in competition, which would work well enough in wage negotiations, but no so in politics.

2.) However, it does not REALLY remove the rich from politics at all, it just changes how they do it, whereas it really will gut the political power of unions, since it will gut use of their main funding source, member dues. (And that's the point!)

3.) It does nothing about black money (Citizen's United) or private money owned by persons at all.

4) It will be the death of unions as an effective political force in CA.

5.) And unions and corporations are not at all the same sort of things. One represents it's members (well or ill, admittedly) and one represents the boss. One has a fundamentally democratic organization and one has a fundamental totalitarian organization (Corporations), and thus one (unions) has the intrinsic political legitimacy to speak for its members, and one has the political legitimacy to speak only for itself (or herself or himself).

Well, probability is always in play.

But if done well (which is no cheap or easy task), they can provide good estimates of momentary public opinion with a small probable error. The problem with most polls is that they are multiple choice, you don't get to say what's on your mind, you have to pick an approved response, the same sort of "management" that one will see tonight in the debate. Most polls find only what they look for, and tend to throw the results out if they don't get it, like tonight.

So, if one were to take a series of such "good" estimates, you would have a pretty good track of public opinion, and might be able to make some intelligent GUESSES about what motivated any changes. But you still have no prediction of future events without the hidden assumption that tomorrow will be like today, and anybody paying attention knows it might not, and the probability is far from miniscule, and all it can take is one to harm or help irretreivably, election wise.

It is worth remembering that one of functions of the MSM, the Mighty Wurlitzer, is to stall change, any fundamental change in who runs things here, they are 100% pro status quo, since they are privileged members of the elites themselves.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, the Black Swan guy, would rip them to shreds, he understands the math, he understands how much they are assuming their own conclusions and building them into the questions and answers, and how false the premises of unitary population (i.e. it is sensible to talk about the pollees as though they were all part of the same population WRT the studied attributes), single peak distributions (they can have as many as you like), and follow something like the normal curve, all of which are ridiculous assumptions in the context of large human cultures and human mental states, which are anything but uniform as a rule.

But it gets too expensive without the simplifications, and anyway, they are not in the business of keeping us informed, exept incidentally. So with a few exceptions I consider them all complete crap, bascially propaganda tools.

They tell you nothing about future reactions to future events, and they assume the status quo as a beginning premise, that tomorrow will be like today, which is ridiculous in modern times, we are going through the period of most rapid change in human history, or for a long, long time in the past, we are talking rapid geological change now. Changes in sea level, changes in atmosphere, resource exhaustion, ...

But mostly, they are bought and paid for, with the usual consequences plain to see.

Edit: the few polls I give any credence to are one and all done by academics.
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