Post by Joanna on Sept 13, 2017 22:55:02 GMT -5
Six 'Professions' That Are Full of Crap
People get paid a lot of money to be experts on all sorts of things, so one would assume these individuals are much more knowledgeable than the average Joe or, at the very least, a blindfolded monkey throwing darts. Sadly, in many cases this just isn’t true, and the so called “expertise” in question amounts to little more than a shot in the dark. Following are a list of so-called experts that inspire confidence while, in reality, their predictions are no more accurate that those of a fortune teller:
Stock Market Analyst. Many of us find the stock market too intimidating to put money into, or at least we would if we had the money to invest in the first place. How do you decide what stocks to pick? Half the time, most people have a hard time picking where they’re going to lunch, yet, those people understand lunch ... don’t they? And they don’t hire someone to help them decide ... do they?
So why does someone with a lot of extra money hire someone to tell them which stocks to buy? Why pay someone else to tell you which stocks and bonds and watch your wealth accumulate no faster than if you’d made your purchases based on your astrological chart or chosen them randomly? As it turns out, the majority of professionally-managed funds picked by stock market experts (70 to 85 percent) actually underperform the Dow or Standard & Poor indices, which are technically supposed to represent the average performance of the market to begin with.
But if you do have to peddle your nest egg off to someone else, try to hand it to Warren Buffet, whose Berkshire Hathaway stocks outperformed the index by 11.14 percent on average for more than 30 years. It’s not that financial advisors cannot know what to pick, they usually just don’t. Nevertheless, when going up against a bunch of dudes throwing darts at a chart to randomly pick their stocks, the stock professionals performed better – though barely.
Wine Taster. One thing we all can be sure about is that people who make their living writing about wine must be able to sniff out differences between wines much better than plain ordinary folk. Sure, Joe Consumer usually prefers cheaper wines, but that’s because Joe Consumer is an uncultured plebeian. The experts, on the other hand, can tell the difference between a 2006 and 2007 Stag;s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon in their sleep because everyone knows 2006 was a pedestrian year for Napa Valley reds – but they don’t.
Hell, the experts have such discerning pallets they can tell the difference between two bottles of the same wine. In one experiment, wine experts were given two bottles of the same wine, only one was labeled a “vin de table” (France’s version of “Night Train”) and the other was labeled a “grand cru” (top-rated vineyard since 1855). Want to know what happened? According to the report: “Whereas the tasters found the wine from the first bottle ‘simple,’ ‘unbalanced,’ and ‘weak,’ they found the wine from the second ‘complex,’ ‘balance,’ and ‘full.’” The participants’ tasting skills put to shame and it didn’t even occur to them that nobody buys a $40-plus bottle of wine for a university experiment. Not only can professional wine tasters be convinced the same bottle of wine was both award-winning and hobo juice, but they could even be convinced the same bottle was both red and white with the cunning use of food coloring.
This is not to say the whole idea of wine-tasting is a crock – it just seems to be a field in which a profession that depends on the tongue allows the eyes to make the decision. For example, in a blind test during the 1976 Judgment of Paris, French experts picked American wines as superior to their own, recoiling in horror when they found out.
Art Critic. Despite its being the battle cry of the bad artist, it really is true that art is subjective. so while we don’t expect art critics to be able to tell us which art is the “best,” we do expect them to at least be able to tell the difference between a Van Gogh and a Picasso, or a Vermeer and a Gary Larson. The good news is that one of these expectations is correct.
Hans van Meegeren was an ordinary mild-mannered artist in the 1930s who painted unimpressive portraits until one day an art critic called him “unoriginal.” Determined to deliver the most ferocious professional scrotum kick in history, Meegeren hatched a daring plan to paint a completely new painting in the style of the artist Vermeer and when all the critics fawned over the newly discovered Vermeer, he would expose them all as the fools they were. Sure enough, his knock-off was hailed by critics as a Vermeer masterpiece, sold for the modern equivalent of $6-million and featured as the centerpiece of a prestigious gallery exhibition. Van Meegeren, realizing he liked money, ditched the plan to embarrass the critics and began painting more Vermeers. Following World War II, Meergeren was arrested for selling “stolen” Vermeers to the Nazis and was forced to admit he had painted them himself.
In 1964, Swedish art critics were fooled into praising the modern works of Pierre Brassau with descriptions such as “Brassau paints with powerful strokes, but also with clear determination. His brush strokes twist with furious fastidiousness. Pierre is an artist who performs with the delicacy of a ballet dancer.” Actually, Brassau “preferred eating the paint to placing it on a canvas” because Brassau was a freaking chimpanzee!
Criminal Profiler. We’ve all learned from TV and movies that when a serial killer is on the loose, an attractive (or handsome) outside expert can come in and discover an intimate window into the killer’s mind by examining the very pattern of his knife strokes. How does a profiler pull off this magic? According to some studies, he/she doesn’t. After analyzing studies on criminal profiling accuracy, the researchers concluded that professional profilers are no more accurate in their predictions than those in a control group who utilized nothing more than common sense and educated guesses. Additionally, many profilers refuse to participate in any sort of study to verify their accuracy.
As elusive as they are to study, it’s difficult to gauge the accuracy of criminal profilers, though some are certainly more incompetent than others. For example, the FBI profilers searching for the Unabomber, identified the suspect as a married man living in the suburbs who was most likely an airplane mechanic. When he was finally arrested in 1996, the Unabomber, Theodore John Kaczynski, turned out to be a wild-haired, crazy mountain man who had been living in a remote cabin for the past 25 years.
Many self-proclaimed criminal profilers scrambled for a place in the spotlight during the Washington Beltway sniper attacks and pegged the randomly murdering snipers as two white men with FBI Profiler Clifton Van Zandt saying, “This is something white males do.” They all scrambled for the shadows when John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo, two black men, were arrested and ultimately convicted for the killings.
Weather Forecasters. While it’s long been a running joke that TV weather forecasters are hired for their good looks or entertainment value, most people assume that someone in the back room is feeding them accurate information so they can at least read the weather.
A bored and curious gentleman in Kansas City with a penchant for statistical analysis decided to explore this assumption one day. He tracked the predictions of four local stations for a period of 220 days and found the four stations had about an 85 percent success rate in predicting if it would rain the following day, which looks pretty good at first glance. But consider this: it doesn’t rain on most days, so it’s not a 50/50 thing. In most parts of the country, it rains only about 14 percent of days. Okay, suppose you went on the air and consistently predicted it wouldn’t rain. In 220-day period, you’d beat their average accuracy rate because your “it won’t rain” prediction is right 86.3 percent of the time. In the study, two of the four stations barely beat you with 87 percent correct, while the other two fell below the threshold.
The study then narrowed it to debatable days only, eliminating days when it clearly wasn’t going to rain – basically boiling it down to days people would actually care about the forecast. The man lowered his threshold to 50 percent, the equivalent of flipping a coin when it’s cloudy to predict whether it will rain tomorrow, and again, the TV stations barely managed to defeat the inanimate object, ranging between 50 percent and 60 percent accuracy. By the time the test was adjusted to predict the weather three days in the future, the coin was winning all the time.
With all this said, this guy’s conclusion isn’t that meteorology is untrustworthy, but rather that local TV weather forecasting places too much emphasis on good hair and bad jokes and not enough on smaller details, such as when it’s going to rain.
Sportswriter. Millions of guys would love to spend all their time watching games and telling people their opinions about sports, but only a select few get to do it and they do so primarily by keeping up a pretense of having some exclusive knowledge about the game. Any sports fan will tell you their hometown sports columnist is a retarded hack, but sports fans tend to be just as lazy as they are abusive and not many compile a statistical analysis of their hated sportswriters’ inaccuracies.
One man, however, did take it upon himself to prove the point empirically in 1971 with an actual study on the ability of sportswriters to predict college and NFL games. Their success rate was .476, which you may notice is slightly worse than a coin and the coin’s writing ability is arguably superior.
However, before writing sports journalists off as complete morons, keep in mind that even Accuscore – a service that charges for its sports predictions based on complex computer algorithms that crunch stats and predict trends – claims no more than 53 to 54 percent accuracy, which is still enough to make money for its customers. So, sports prediction is something almost nobody can get a handle on, but still ... worse than a coin toss?
If you want to tie your brain in a knot, think about this: If those guys sitting behind the desk at ESPN are performing worse than chance when they make an “expert” judgment about who’s going to win the game, this means they could improve their accuracy by always betting on the team they actually believe is going to lose. In fact, some of them are wrong so often they could beat the Accuscore service simply by going against their instincts every time. Of course, they’d still probably screw it up somehow.
Sources: Christina H, Cracked, January 27, 2010; “The Sham of Criminal Profiling” by Bruce Schneider, November 14, 2007; “Weather.com Kills the Weather Channel’s Credibility” by Dennis Mersereau, February 27, 2015; and “90% of Everything is Crap” by Paul Goodwin, October 2, 2015.