Posts Tagged ‘end-of-year forecast frenzy’

Investment Forecasts: Known Unknowns

Investment Forecasts: Known Unknowns

Courtesy of Tim at The Psy-Fi Blog

The Death of Socrates'

End of Year Epiphanies

At the end of every calendar year we experience a rush of forecasts on the likely direction of various markets and stocks for the next year. You can find thousands of such forecasts on the internet and you can’t pick up a paper without someone or other opining on the subject. In fact, no matter what your preference, you’ll doubtless find someone out there predicting whatever you want.

The uselessness of these predictions was carefully explained by the Ancient Greek philosopher Socrates, two and half thousand years ago. Not letting death, the lack of Ancient Greek stockmarkets or the fact he lived in an economy based on slavery get in the way of a good analogy, Socrates noted that he, at least, knew what he didn’t know. Which in investment analysis terms is about as close to an epiphany as you’re likely to get.

From Socrates to Rumsfeld

Socrates seems, as far as we can tell, to have spent his life in philosophical musings, preferring to spend his time asking the supposed wise men of Athens for their insights rather than doing anything more economically useful. His conclusion was, largely, that they didn’t know very much – an insight that echoes down the ages. They, on the other hand, decided that they didn’t like a smartass and the result is a lesson to would-be gadflies the world over.

In particular he seems to have annoyed the powerful by informing them that he knew something they didn’t. Having already upset them by showing up exactly how dim they were he then compounded his crimes by revealing his secret: “I know what I do not know”. If this sounds familiar, you’d be right:

“There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.”

It’s long way from Socrates to investment analysis via Donald Rumsfeld but I think we’ve just managed it.

The Known Unknowns of the Market

Socrates’ known unknowns are important for markets, because each of us can know – with something approaching certainty – that one of these…
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