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Math The Almighty Buck

World Cup Prediction Failures 312

Posted by timothy
from the goal-oops-I-mean-nope dept.
pdcull writes "We all read on Slashdot about the investment banks using their massive computer power and clever modeling techniques to predict the FIFA World Cup outcome. Now that Goldman Sachs's, UBS's and Danske Bank's favorite, Brazil, has been eliminated, and with JP Morgan's England long gone, the question that begs to be asked is: can we really trust these guys to predict the financial markets any better than they did World Cup?"
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World Cup Prediction Failures

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  • We have to! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DWMorse (1816016) on Saturday July 03, 2010 @07:09PM (#32788762) Homepage

    We just bailed out the banks, so it's too late to start throwing in votes of no confidence!

    • Re:We have to! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by NFN_NLN (633283) on Saturday July 03, 2010 @07:19PM (#32788820)
      "Goldman has published an exhaustive list of defences against the allegations that it acted illegally when it allowed hedge fund Paulson & Co to choose some of the sub-prime backed securities to be included in a product it sold to investors even though it knew the hedge fund was betting against them."

      The financial giants don't predict the markets, they make them.

      A better analogy would be if Goldman Sachs was allowed to pick the players for each team, and put all the worst players into Brazil. Then sell all their customers bets for Brazil to win while simultaneously betting against them.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        No, that is a terrible analogy. A better one:

        Customer A comes to GS and says we have views on these pool of players, help us implement that view. Goldman tells Customer B they are interested in structuring a bet (that by necessity, must have another side) with the same pool. Customer B picks the players it likes, based on its own analysis and expertise. Customer A accepts the new list of players. Customer B is initially very happy, but soon the players, for which no entity involved has any influence, start

        • Too complicated. The best analogy is simply to say that GS, etc al are filled with shallow crooks who can and will trick and con everyone they meet out of every cent they have.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by mooingyak (720677)

            Too complicated. The best analogy is simply to say that GS, etc al are filled with shallow crooks who can and will trick and con everyone they meet out of every cent they have.

            And for completeness, they're all driving in cars.

        • by IMightB (533307)

          You forgot that customer B also has a larger amount of money bet against the team than for it. All the while goldman is telling everyone that the market has too many rules to follow and that they can take care of themselves.

      • Re:We have to! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by NotQuiteReal (608241) on Saturday July 03, 2010 @08:23PM (#32789144) Journal
        The financial giants don't predict the markets, they make them

        Obviously reality still has some bearing on things.
        • Who's reality though?

          • by BluBrick (1924)
            I'm reality - And so is my wife!
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by apoc.famine (621563)
            Everyone. Every mistake, every poor choice. Just like "The Hand of God", and Germany's "notched goal line", the drunken trader [msn.com]who improperly traded seven million barrels of oil while hammered out of his gourd is reality.

            Predict all you want - you can have the best algorithms and the best data, but human fuckups will ruin those every time. Maybe, if all trades were designed and executed by computers, with no human involvement, you could predict those things. But as long as someone is required to spot some
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by iluvcapra (782887)

              There's this unfortunate bias in the language here, which I've seen other places, where a failure on the part of human beings to behave predictably and rationally is framed as a "fuck-up" or a mistake or as undesirable and destructive.

              IMHO, unpredictability and unreliability is merely an aspect of being human, and is probably a long-term desirable trait. All of the analytical economic models and "efficent market" theorizing that people indulge in is really just a way for powerful, influential, and ideolog

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by servognome (738846)

                There's this unfortunate bias in the language here, which I've seen other places, where a failure on the part of human beings to behave predictably and rationally is framed as a "fuck-up" or a mistake or as undesirable and destructive.
                IMHO, unpredictability and unreliability is merely an aspect of being human, and is probably a long-term desirable trait.

                IMHO the reason unpredictability and unreliability of people is a shortcoming in the modesl, and not an actual trait. If computer models predict it's going

                • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                  by im_thatoneguy (819432)

                  This is what drove me crazy about watching Star Trek TOS. Spock would always try to cover is his irrational and mentally handicapped shortcomings by blaming it on 'irrationality'. The worst was when Kirk beats him at chess. "That move was illogical." Yo. Spock. If he beat you, it was obviously the most rational move.

                  To not take into consideration the motivations and irrationalities of the agents in a system is to not model the system at all.

                  There are a lot of straw Vulcans in the financial market.

      • by shentino (1139071)

        Can you express this in the form of a car analogy?

      • Re:We have to! (Score:5, Informative)

        by HungryHobo (1314109) on Sunday July 04, 2010 @06:20AM (#32791064)

        Some people have this idea that bankers and investors have an almost godlike knowledge of the world and the future.
        On forums which attract financial types I'll see people dismissing stocks on the basis that "of course if they were really more valuable the traders would have snapped then up".
        It's as if they don't realize that the traders are operating on almost no information in some cases. living across the street from a company and being able to count the trucks going in and out will often put you ahead of the traders in terms of real information.

      • Re:We have to! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by aBaldrich (1692238) on Sunday July 04, 2010 @02:10AM (#32790370)
        The 'science' can not predict the next Hand of God. Besides, football is football, even the best team can be easily defeated. And there is no set of absolute data for each player and formation. If you play Winning Eleven you see it classifies and gives a quantity to each "ability" such as speed, stamina, aim, strength, etc. But in the real world the player can be shocked by some event (like missing a penalty kick), he can be under pressure, he could have partied all night long and be really tired. All of that has happened in world cups and is almost random. There's no mathematical model to predict the next Hand of God. You can't calculate the rivalries among the team's players, the "will" to play, the distraction of the vuvuzelas, and pure luck.
        The model you link placed France third. But they are less than 16th. Chile is 34th but they are between 9th and 16th. It also relies heavily in FIFA's ranking, which everyone knows to be bullshit since it takes into account games up to 4 years old.
        Other models take players as individuals and take the team for granted. If that was true, then you don't even have to think about it, Argentina has the best surnames (and we got owned 0-4). As we use to say: football statistics are like miniskirts, they give you a nice picture, but you don't know what it's hiding.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by jonbryce (703250)

        Paul the Octopus did a better job of predicting the results than they did.

    • That's an "investiment bank" to you, sonny.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by moosesocks (264553)

      We just bailed out the banks, so it's too late to start throwing in votes of no confidence!

      Uhm. No. That isn't an either/or. They got bailed out to avert a total economic collapse -- not as a vote of confidence. If anything, the bailout was a symbol that the banks fucked up -- badly.

      On the other hand, the bailout should have had a few more strings attached to it, and we desperately need for meaningful financial reform to be passed. Unfortunately, because Obama fought for it, the Republicans are against it, and it's unlikely that the currently proposed reforms will have the "teeth" necessary

      • Re:We have to! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by JackieBrown (987087) <dbroome@gmail.com> on Saturday July 03, 2010 @09:22PM (#32789394)

        (Also, very few of the banks were actually "bailed out." Most were provided with a government-backed high-interest loan that they had to pay back, which many already have)

        And not all of the banks wanted the loans but the government pushed it on more banks than were necessary so that the consumers would not know which banks were in need of a "bail-out." The government was worried that if we knew which banks were in need of help, we would all leave those badly run banks in favor of the banks that handled our money responsibly.

        In Texas, that is actually a selling point in a number of local bank commercials "And you can rest assured that we did not accepted any government bail out money. Our customer's investments were always secure."

        • Re:We have to! (Score:5, Interesting)

          by ducomputergeek (595742) on Saturday July 03, 2010 @10:47PM (#32789670)

          My best friend in college came from a family of bankers. They own 2 banks. The bigger of the two is still family run, but he owns more of the smaller bank, which is more of a rural community bank. Well apparently, both banks were called by the local fed branch and told to take Tarp money. The bigger bank did. The smaller bank said, "No thank you, we didn't make bad loans." Well the smaller bank has been dragged through the mud with 5 separate investigations in the last 18 months by the government. They'll hold local press conferences saying, "This bank is under investigation for violation of the Equal housing laws, or this or that". Each time, the investigations have come up empty or they've been cleared of wrong doing. But is there any press conferences about that from the feds? Nope. They didn't do anything wrong other than refuse to take the government's money and ran their bank wisely.

          Apparently, if you didn't need Tarp money, the government look at your bank as though you MUST have been doing something "wrong".

          • Re:We have to! (Score:5, Insightful)

            by jordan_robot (1830144) on Sunday July 04, 2010 @01:18AM (#32790194)
            Ha! Or they had some accounting practices that they didn't want the government looking at with a fine tooth comb. The truth is, none of us will really know for certain what the real story is. Just because the guy's a friend from college doesn't mean you know the whole story. Could be true, could be 20% hedging, could be 100% pack of lies. Don't know, and neither do you.
          • by Tom (822) on Sunday July 04, 2010 @04:59AM (#32790846) Homepage Journal

            Apparently, if you didn't need Tarp money, the government look at your bank as though you MUST have been doing something "wrong".

            Absolutely. You see, if you weren't "in" on this largest scam in history, then you are not part of the elite capitalist clan, and thus you are obviously a communist. A communist! Oh, wait, wrong century. A terrorist! You're with the terrorists!

          • Re:We have to! (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Yvanhoe (564877) on Sunday July 04, 2010 @08:42AM (#32791442) Journal
            The problem is that every bank was saying that they did no bad loans in order to evacuate theirs quickly and throw the hot potato to someone else. Investigating such claims seems only fair. You also claim that the way media reporting is made is not fair. Well, yes, that's true and that's another problem entirely.
      • Re:We have to! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by ultranova (717540) on Sunday July 04, 2010 @12:16PM (#32792152)

        They got bailed out to avert a total economic collapse -- not as a vote of confidence. If anything, the bailout was a symbol that the banks fucked up -- badly.

        This rises a question of whether banks should be simply nationalized? They aren't acting as private companies anyway, since the risk is public, and we already paid for them. Taking them under direct and permanent governmental control would allow us the people to exert some control over them and prevent this from reoccurring.

        No private company should be allowed to be so large that its owner can blackmail the rest of the nation. I, for one, do not think that billionaires have any more divine right to rule than kings.

  • No. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by morari (1080535) on Saturday July 03, 2010 @07:09PM (#32788764) Journal

    The answer to a question.

    • Re:No. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by mobby_6kl (668092) on Saturday July 03, 2010 @08:01PM (#32789052)

      "No" is not the answer, Paul is. He correctly predicted the outcome of all of Germany's games so far, whichi is pretty impressive, considering Germany's loss to Serbia.

      Of course, Paul is an octopus [spiegel.de] who picks the winning side by choosing the box with the winning side's flag on it.

    • Seriously, who the hell takes gambling (which is what investing in stocks is) and decides it should be a sure thing and they should never be able to lose money?
    • Re:No. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ranton (36917) on Sunday July 04, 2010 @12:37AM (#32790076)

      Who would ever assume that it is possible to predict any game of Association Football? When two teams have even slightly comparable skill levels, luck is the largest determining factor of any one game. The better team will probably win best out of 7, but the results of any one game are meaningless when determining who is the superior team.

      Any game with such low scoring is the same way. In professional basketball it is possible to have 10-1 favorites because being superior is a far better indicator of who will win. But even in a game like baseball (with far more scoring than assoc. football on average) you usually only see odds of 4-1 at the extreme. And because of the lack of salary caps there is a far bigger discrepency between the skill levels of the best and worse teams in baseball.

  • by Idimmu Xul (204345) on Saturday July 03, 2010 @07:10PM (#32788768) Homepage Journal

    Surely the last couple of years are evidence enough that the financial industry can't predict or manage the markets? We didn't need football to tell us this :D

    • by mortonda (5175) on Saturday July 03, 2010 @08:25PM (#32789156)

      Not to mention, how could *anyone* predict anything with as many bad calls as the refs have been making all the time??

      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 03, 2010 @09:41PM (#32789460)

        It's easy. You just have to pay off the refs.

      • by sconeu (64226)

        Did anyone ever figure out what the foul was that disallowed the goal at the end of the USA-Algeria match?

      • by straponego (521991) on Saturday July 03, 2010 @10:30PM (#32789618)
        Exactly. A large fraction of the games have been decided by clearly bad calls. Furthermore, in a tournament, especially with a small sample size of games (single elimination being the smallest), chance plays a huge role. The best team is more likely than the others to win, but unless there's a huge disparity in skill (for example, pro vs. high school), the best team is not likely to win the majority of times. For example, if Team A will win against teams B, C and D 2/3 of the time, and they have to beat each of those teams to win the tournament, they've got about a 29.6% chance of winning it all. If they only have to beat two, it's 44.4%.

        And then there are the ways you match up vs. the teams you happen to play, injuries, etc. It's still fun. In fact, you might say those things make it more interesting. If you had a perfect way of predicting the games, because they perfectly reflected some ideal of skill, there would be no point in playing them.

        But a single tournament doesn't really tell you who is "best."
    • Those of us in the USA didn't need soccer either!!
  • by Improv (2467) <pgunn@dachte.org> on Saturday July 03, 2010 @07:12PM (#32788776) Homepage Journal

    What's an investiment bank?! I don't trust any large institution that can't spell worth beans.

    • by causality (777677) on Saturday July 03, 2010 @07:54PM (#32789014)

      What's an investiment bank?! I don't trust any large institution that can't spell worth beans.

      Slashdot "editors" are not large institutions. They are individuals ultimately responsible for failing to perform the most basic quality checks for submissions, like this mistake that an automated spell-checker would have fixed. Really, even basic proofreading would not have been necessary in this case.

      If the "editors" did their jobs in a relatively consistent manner I'd consider purchasing a paid subscription. As it stands, I don't get to be lazy at my job and therefore it would be unjust to reward the way they do theirs. Anyone remember the recent article about Plato in which an "editor" inserted a blatantly false and readily falsified statement about Aristotle? This is not exactly obscure material that would be difficult to verify.

      In this job market where multitudes are desperately seeking work, I am sure there are many who would be happy to do better than the current staff.

      For those who have no real concern for quality, my response is this: it's not that a spelling error is so terrible or offensive. It isn't. It's that it shows that they don't care. If they don't care enough to correct errors when the effort to do so approaches zero, why should I care? If I have no reason to care, why should I pay money?

      I suppose it sounds like I am picking on Slashdot specifically. Really, they are just reflecting what has become a societal norm. That norm is the abandonment of "this is my craft, the satisfaction I get out of it is proportional to what I am willing to put into it, the quality of it matters to me even when no one is looking." That norm is the embracing of "it doesn't matter if I produce substandard and shoddy work as long as someone is willing to consume it."

  • Wait. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by esrobinson (1028500) on Saturday July 03, 2010 @07:12PM (#32788778)
    Your question is, "Hey, these guys who spend their entire lives predicting financial markets aren't good at predicting sports. How can we trust them to predict financial markets?"
    • Re:Wait. (Score:5, Funny)

      by SpeedyDX (1014595) <speedyphoenix@@@gmail...com> on Saturday July 03, 2010 @07:22PM (#32788846)

      All-star baseball player struggles at figure skating - clearly shows all-star game votes don't reflect players' abilities!
      Grammy award winning singer can't perform simple clown juggling routine - they hand out Grammys to anyone these days!
      Nobel prize winning chemist's sculpture harshly criticized by art critics - all previous research papers under scrutiny!

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by sammyF70 (1154563)
        I thought you meant that ironically until

        "They hand out Grammys to anyone these days!"

    • Re:Wait. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by martin-boundary (547041) on Saturday July 03, 2010 @07:27PM (#32788868)
      Exactly, if they don't realize the inherent limitations of their methods to finance only, how can they be trusted to be masters of that method at all?

      It's like if you think pounding screws with a hammer is a good idea, then I have to wonder if you even know how to hammer in nails properly.

    • by bjohnson (3225)

      Well, actually the current state of the economy is proof enough that "these guys who spend their entire lives predicting financial markets" aren't god at predicting financial markets.

      Who the hell would believe these guys could predict soccer?

      • by dmbasso (1052166)

        Actually it is quite the opposite, the economy is in this state because they can predict very well (by making it happen through manipulation of the market). Or do you think the people (not institutions) responsible for the crisis lost any money in it?

      • Re:Wait. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by servognome (738846) on Sunday July 04, 2010 @02:08AM (#32790358)

        Well, actually the current state of the economy is proof enough that "these guys who spend their entire lives predicting financial markets" aren't god at predicting financial markets.

        You mean the guys who made millions in bonuses selling risky investments, then made their friends' firms billions when the risky loans they made went bad.
        The reason they can't predict soccer games is because they don't control everybody involved. The financial markets are more like professional wrestling than an actual sport.

  • by feepness (543479)
    So stop. And stop voting for the people that do as well.
    • Re:No. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by causality (777677) on Saturday July 03, 2010 @07:59PM (#32789042)

      So stop. And stop voting for the people that do as well.

      There is no chance of that happening in the USA as long as the two major parties are the gatekeepers of federal elections. The "lesser of two evils" is still evil, and election after election of some kind of evil adds up to a lot of institutionalized evil.

  • by Flavio (12072) on Saturday July 03, 2010 @07:13PM (#32788788) Homepage

    Goldman Sachs gave Brazil (the "favorite") only a 13% chance of winning the world cup.

    The fact that Brazil was eliminated is not at odds with the reports.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 03, 2010 @07:33PM (#32788904)

      Goldman Sachs gave Brazil (the "favorite") only a 13% chance of winning the world cup.

      The fact that Brazil was eliminated is not at odds with the reports.

      Way to ruin my self-righteous rage with your little 'facts' It makes me feel better to lay other people low when times are tough. The people need a safe outlet for their anger, and some remote math geeks should have been fair game. Then you come along and tell me their predictions were soundly made..? So, now I must recollect all that anger and direct it at my wife and children. I am the victim here. Why aren't you defending me?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by causality (777677)
        I know you were saying that tongue-in-cheek but you raised a good point. I thought I'd mention that since this is Slashdot after all, where finding something worthy in a humorous post makes people feel entitled to assume you didn't understand the humor...

        The people need a safe outlet for their anger, and some remote math geeks should have been fair game.

        I thought that's what national sports were for, not math geeks. It's the good old-fashioned "bread and circus" routine, used by generation after generati

    • by Kjella (173770) on Saturday July 03, 2010 @08:41PM (#32789250) Homepage

      Goldman Sachs gave Brazil (the "favorite") only a 13% chance of winning the world cup.

      It's been clear to me now for some time that soccer isn't about making the best team win. If a typical match result was like 9-4 it's very unlikely the weaker team would beat the stronger, and we could have done that by making scoring easier. But with results like 2-1 it's pretty much down to $random circumstance of the day. Why? Because in 80% of the matches it makes fans go "If only..." then our team would have won. You look at the one missed chance and ignore that the opponent had three. At 13% you realize this is mostly luck, it means there's at least ten countries that could win.

      Personally I think Germany will pull it off though, impressive play and all their hardest competitors eliminated. Spain has Barcelona which is possibly the world's best team but their national team never quite made it, Netherlands and Uruguay have always been good nations but haven't made it to the top in ages. Because when you look at the list of winners, it's shorter than you might think and Germany is the only one left that has won in recent history (Uruguay won in 1930 and 1950).

      • wrong wrong wrong (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ericbg05 (808406)

        But with results like 2-1 it's pretty much down to $random circumstance of the day.

        My god. What are the moderators thinking?

        I've been playing the game for 23 years, was trained by world-class coaches, and I'm here to tell you that you don't know what you're talking about.

        Because in 80% of the matches it makes fans go "If only..."

        It's part of the joy of the game, part of the culture of the game to wish and hope for your team to win. But just because a fan thinks something doesn't make it so.

        this is mostly luck

        If that were true, a group of randomly-chosen people would have a similar chance of winning the world cup as e.g. Germany. Which is, of course, ridicu

    • In other words, they predicted that the results would be random and hard to predict.

      By itself, that statement is bullshit, and means nothing. On the other hand, amongst a sea of outlandishly incorrect predictions from a variety of respected individuals and firms, Goldman may have been onto something.

      This is actually a useful result to have. Unfortunately, I don't think we're likely to hear Goldman say anytime soon that "The markets are volatile and chaotic, and we can't predict them right now. Better ho

    • by Lars512 (957723)

      Goldman Sachs gave Brazil (the "favorite") only a 13% chance of winning the world cup.

      The fact that Brazil was eliminated is not at odds with the reports.

      Exactly. The editorial comment has the misconception that this form of betting aims to find the winner.

      Instead, they are looking for models which better predict to the "true" likelihood of any team winning. These models output a series of probabilities, and the amount of money you can make depends on the disparity between this distribution and that predicted by the current betting odds. You place a family of bets which target this disparity proportionally, and then after a sufficient number of events you'l

  • Upgrade (Score:4, Funny)

    by therealobsideus (1610557) on Saturday July 03, 2010 @07:13PM (#32788790)
    Guess it's time to upgrade their magic ball software. This time maybe they shouldn't outsource the project to Mattel.
  • hmm amaterism (Score:2, Interesting)

    by cruonit (1701574)
    the problem is they didn't used enought feature factors or the relevant ones (like detailed statgistics for every player, for that player with coop with another player). i didn't read the stuff but i am sure they used only few factors mostly historic data the detailed forcast would cost too much money (but they invest them into stock forecast)
  • by Anonymous Coward

    That squid or octopus or kraken Paul [bbc.co.uk] which consistently picked the "German" mussel.

  • Say... (Score:3, Funny)

    by muckracer (1204794) on Saturday July 03, 2010 @07:20PM (#32788832)

    Is this a trick question??

  • by oldhack (1037484)

    Games are decided by refereeing as much as anything. Did they throw that into the model?

    FIFA make UN look like a girlscout.

  • What about me ? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by zero.kalvin (1231372)
    I predicted 3 of the 4 teams in the semi-finals. And I am not claiming any special powers here. But this does raise two issues. If these banks actually were that serious with the prediction: Either they are insane to actually try to predict the outcome using models and techniques that are used for finance, which raises the question of how fit they are to think they can predict the markets themselves if they think they have a "pass-partous" models. And if did they take into account every variable in the pre
  • prediction? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by chichilalescu (1647065) on Saturday July 03, 2010 @07:30PM (#32788886) Homepage Journal
    I thought the point of the stock market was that people with money can buy shares into companies they think will be profitable. i pitty these idiots who try all their best to get as rich as possible as fast as possible. and I pitty the rest of the world, who see clearly that these guys treat everything like a lottery, and still trust them.
    • by Kjella (173770)

      I thought the point of the stock market was that people with money can buy shares into companies they think will be profitable. i pitty these idiots who try all their best to get as rich as possible as fast as possible. and I pitty the rest of the world, who see clearly that these guys treat everything like a lottery, and still trust them.

      They operate under uncertainty of the future, which I think most of us do. You probably have different scenarios, some positive like getting a promotion or payraise, some neutral, some negative like a pay cut or getting laid off. Adjust as required if you're already unemployed. Depending on which you think is more likely, you probably have different strategies. For example, if you think you may be laid off you may be hedging trying to find a more secure job. If you're looking good, you might want to take th

    • Actually you have hit the problem with current markets on the head, most people (especially at the big financial companies) are gambling. Stock investing is always a gamble, but it has become more so lately (the problem I am talking about really started becoming a major factor in the 80s). Ideally if you invest in a company you should be expecting to get a share of the profits through dividends. Today most people are expecting to profit by selling the stocks for more than they paid for them even though they
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Tom (822)

      I thought the point of the stock market was that people with money can buy shares into companies they think will be profitable.

      That was 50 years ago. Today, actual investment is about 1% of the trading activity, the rest is speculation. While speculation does have its place at the stock market (it provides for liquidity), the fact that it has drowned out actual investment is doing damage that can't be measured. Among other things, it is the speculators who lobbied against the transaction tax that would've a) made the stock market pay their fair share in the financial crisis and b) done at least a bit to prevent it from repeating. I

  • by RichMan (8097) on Saturday July 03, 2010 @07:31PM (#32788888)

    The predictions by various teams would have had a chance of happening.
    Like Argentina will beat Germany 67% of the time. There is still the possibility that Germany will win a game.
    One thing that makes the world cup very unpredictable is that only a single game decides winner/loser. Anything can happen in a single game. Someone can be a little off. The ball can bounce just so. A ref can blow a call. If they played best of 5 or 7 games the predictions would have a better chance of happening.

    Still we can't predict the future 100% and the world is still interesting.

    To the stock market. There are to many outside influences.
    Could anyone have predicted the well blow out in the Gulf and its affect on the Gulf fishing industry or 911 ? Sure they would have been outside possibilities but no one could have predicted exactly when based on just looking at the stock market.
    As much as the economists like to assume that economics is a measurable science the ideas of perfect knowledge and perfect actors are laughable given the way we know people operate. The basic foundation of the economic theory is very broken.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Myji Humoz (1535565)
      The foundation of economics is the same as the foundation of statistics. No economist can accurately predict how an individual game can turn out, just like no economist can accurately predict how an individual actor will choose. However, the law of large numbers means that given a sufficiently large population, mass scale behavior can be predicted. A simple example of this in action is that if I flip a coin and call it heads or tails, I'll be wrong roughly 50% of the time. However, if I say that 50% give or
      • However, if I say that 50% give or take 5% of a thousand coin flips will end up heads or tails, I'd probably be right.

        Wrong (it's 100%). However, if I say that 50% give or take 5% of a thousand coin flips will end up heads or if I say that 50% give or take 5% of a thousand coin flips will end up tails, I'd probably be right.

      • by plopez (54068) on Saturday July 03, 2010 @09:02PM (#32789348) Journal

        Economics taking a statistical approach often assumes that in the long run you have a stationary time series. This is why economics and the quants will fail miserably. There is no understanding, or desire to understand, the fundamental foundations of the economic activity. If you take a statisticl approach you have nothing like what Newton, Gallileo and a host of others gave to physics or chemistry. All you can say is, "If the past resembles the future then there is an x probability that y will happen." As opposed to saying given the following forces, then the system will behave a certain way. Non-linearity is another question, but if you do not attempt you understand basic forces then failure is likely even without non-linearity.

        For economics to be a science there also must be a way to test hypotheses. To date I haven't seen anything like this. So at best economics is wishful thinking, IMO.

    • As much as the economists like to assume that economics is a measurable science the ideas of perfect knowledge and perfect actors are laughable given the way we know people operate. The basic foundation of the economic theory is very broken.

      All this really proves is that you do not understand neither theoretical economics nor the mathematics of prediction. It doesn't work the way you are assuming it works nor do economists make the assumptions you are assuming they make. They might make these assumptions t

  • ...of the probability of an event and a firm prediction you might be better off keeping your money in your mattress. Let's see how they do on average over the next hundred or so World Cups.

    But then, "predicting financial markets" is not what I use banks for anyway. YMMV.

  • Footy tipping (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MichaelSmith (789609) on Saturday July 03, 2010 @07:37PM (#32788920) Homepage Journal

    ...lots of people do it in Australia, especially in work places. Maybe you get a small prize if you guess best. Anyway one year we had this French manager who won the competition by a mile. All he had was a table of match results and a copy of excel. He was also the software metrics guru so knowing how to drive the spreadsheet helped as well.

    I think the secret of his success was what he left out of his model. It wasn't smart at all. Just that when teams A and B play, what is the probability that A will win, or something simple like that.

  • Troll summary (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Krahar (1655029)
    This makes no sense. They might have been completely right that some particular team was most likely to win, but then the randomness of the game made it so that the most likely winner didn't win. We have no way to tell. To evaluate their ability to predict correctly, you would need data for how well they did over the course of many world cups. Besides, they can't possibly do better than the quality of their data and the extent to which that data actually allows to predict the outcome. E.g. if they fail to p
  • That's like saying the horse with the best odds didn't finish first, do the bookies really know what they're doing? There's these things called chance and statistics. Also it's not like Brazil did badly.
    A friend and I wrote our own computer based predictor for FIFA, at last count it predicted 33 out of 58 games which I would say is pretty good given that games had 3 possible outcomes in earlier rounds: win/lose/draw (and yes we predicted Brazil I'm afraid).
    If anyone's interested in a shameless plug here's o

  • by jd2112 (1535857)
    Why should we trust them to predict the outcome of a sporting event when they have such a poor record predicting financial markets.
  • Going back to the old story and looking at what data the companies used to predict the outcome, it doesn't surprise me it's inaccurate. They used:
    • Betting market data
    • Elo ratings
    • Salary data
    • Historical World Cup data
    • Socioeconomic data

    While that's not a bad way to start, what seems to be more important is how well the team plays together and the chemistry and attitude of the team in general. As we saw with England (and France), you can put a bunch of great soccer players on one team, but that doesn't mean

  • Hmm (Score:5, Funny)

    by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Saturday July 03, 2010 @08:28PM (#32789178)
    How good are they at climate prediction. I'm just wonderin'...
  • I think the winning conditions are inappropriate for this contest. It was set up so that you had to pick a team. There's no reason in a game as random as soccer to expect a particular team to have a high likelihood of winning. An appropriate guess would have been a statistical distribution with every team having some chance of winning. By playing the game, these financial teams were more likely than not to lose.
  • is the fact that these guys might have actually thought they could predict Soccer games.

    They can very easily "predict" market moves in very short time frames -- they have access to real time data as well as prices/sizes of tickets that are lying outside current bid/ask range.

    Frankly anyone here could write a program to predict that a stock and, by doing this for multiple stocks, an index using this information to calculate momentum. Place a bet with enough money and you only need a small change so you can m

  • They probably picked Brazil to win, meaning they thought Brazil had the best chance. They would probably also admit that "the best chance" is still pretty small. So, the fact that their pick to win was eliminated really isn't a blemish on their prediction ability, given our sample size is "one".
  • by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Saturday July 03, 2010 @10:32PM (#32789628)

    By having superfast computers on the floor and looking at the orders coming in, they buy and sell just before the orders execute.

    This would be like observing a goal was clearly going to occur (or not occur) and then betting a goal would occur (or not occur) in the milliseconds before the goal actually occured.

  • ...they are doing.

    Wall street is hiring to influence and skim off the market
    http://christianmarks.wordpress.com/2010/05/25/mathematical-logic-finds-unexpected-application-on-wall-street/ [wordpress.com]

    and this works better if you think you can do a better job with markets.

  • by F34nor (321515) on Sunday July 04, 2010 @01:42AM (#32790270)

    SciAm had an article I have referenced before showing the the equations for economics we incorrectly generalized from physic equations and those and been invalidated since. Economics is not a science at all.

  • by DollyTheSheep (576243) on Sunday July 04, 2010 @02:51AM (#32790468)

    "Football is a simple game; 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win."

    Gary Lineker [wikipedia.org]

  • Uh...hello McFly! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by yoshi_mon (172895) on Sunday July 04, 2010 @04:51AM (#32790824)

    Is /. not seeing that this is just a huge statistical game?

    I've looked at a fair amount of the financial models and they are either a) statistical models that do try to gauge the market, or b) purposeful obfuscation bullshit trying to make things seem very complicated while it hides the true intent of enriching those who make them.

    I have no doubt that they used A in their model for doing whatever they were trying to do by predicting the World Cup. Just in the same way all of the people in Vegas, and all over the world, have been doing for years. But when you only have a limited number of 'flips of the coin' it's never going to be perfect. Never mind the human error factor in crafting said models.

"If that makes any sense to you, you have a big problem." -- C. Durance, Computer Science 234

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