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Be wary of computer models and subsequent interventions

Be wary of computer models and subsequent interventions

AGW, COVID-19, plague

Modeling can analyze data about complex systems and make predictions. But the predictive value of computer modeling is hampered by the fact that models are only as good as the assumptions and statistics behind them.

Models have become ubiquitous in government planning and policy-setting. But that carries built-in dangers connected with the inherent problems with models and the predictions based on them, particularly if the policies recommended are far-sweeping and damaging in themselves.

The more catastrophic the prediction, the more likely a government or a populace is to become afraid, and to justify large-scale interventions that can negatively impact liberty, the economy, and quality of life in general. And all for what? To avert a catastrophe that never would have happened in the first place? A lot of people – even those who are generally science-oriented – have come to distrust the models and consider them deeply flawed or even deceptive, an excuse for government to clamp its hand ever more tightly around us.

If a government doesn’t follow the modelers’ suggestions about AGW, for example, and yet the catastrophe doesn’t appear when predicted, the forecasts are often just pushed into the future. If a government does follow the modeler’s suggestions and nothing catastrophic happens, those who advocated the draconian interventions can claim, “See, if you hadn’t listened to us it would have been absolutely terrible, just as we predicted. Now you must always listen to us, because we are correct.”

And yet there’s only one earth. We cannot do a controlled experiment because there is no second planet to act as a control. And although we can try our best to crunch the numbers, how can we know for certain whether the intervention made things better or not, or was necessary at all?

Pandemics are similar in that modeling and predictions are involved. But with pandemics we have more opportunity for checking our work. We can compare different countries and different interventions during the same pandemic, although that can take not just years but a century or more; for example, they’re still trying to decide whether certain cities in the US instituted interventions in 1918 that made an ultimate difference in their rate of death from flu. After all, it’s not as though all cities in a certain country, or all countries on earth, are the same in terms of a host of factors that might make them more or less susceptible to a particular illness. Researchers have ways of adjusting for those differences. But the methods to do so are far from perfect. And yet we really need to know.

But that’s mostly ex post facto, and enormously consequential decisions must be made in real time. Choosing a model and deciding whether to intervene and how to intervene is very hard. Following advice that features a worst case scenario, just in case, can lead to enormous interventions that hurt a city or country (or world) and may have been unnecessary.

In the olden days, science didn’t have computer models, and people were at the mercy of epidemics or pandemics that ravaged their countries and sometimes much of the world. But even then, in their desperation they tried to figure out what to do:

Hippocrates and Galen are colossal figures in the history of medicine [offered guidance for plague], rendered in Latin as ‘Cito, Longe, Tarde,’ which translates as ‘Leave quickly, go far away and come back slowly.’…

When the Black Death spread through Italy in late 1347, some ports began turning away ships suspected of coming from infected areas. During March the following year, authorities in Venice became the first to formalise such protective actions against plague, closing the city’s waters to suspect vessels, and subjecting travellers and legitimate ships to 30 days’ isolation. This period was extended to 40 days some years later – hence the term quarantine. Further regulations established remote cemeteries for plague victims who in turn were collected, transported and buried in accordance with defined rules. But these measures were too little, too late. Plague took hold and Venetians died in their tens of thousands…

Other Italian cities tried similar measures. Further inland, in May 1348 the northern city of Pistoia introduced wide-ranging laws affecting many aspects of daily life. Restrictions on imports and exports, travel, market trading and funerals were all brought in, but again to no effect. At least 70% of the population died. But by contrast, another northern city, Milan, avoided a major outbreak. Whether this was due to control measures taken by city authorities, including sealing up three houses (with the occupants inside) after plague was discovered there, is debatable. The Milanese authorities could certainly be firm. From 1350 they decreed that all future plague victims and those nursing them would be isolated in a designated pesthouse built outside the city walls.

I’m grateful for modern science. But unfortunately, we may not be as good as we think we are – and certainly not as good as we would like to be – at predicting the effects of the major interventions we employ in our attempts to control the forces of nature.

[Neo is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at the new neo.]


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notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital | April 6, 2020 at 7:51 pm

However, mine, and all the other computer models say this is true.

“Media Freaks Out As Trump Asks Asian-American “Reporter” If the “News” Outlet She Works For is Owned by China

Spoiler Alert: I

t Is China-Controlled Propaganda, But Media Are Still Outraged

— Ace of Spades

    notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital in reply to notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital. | April 6, 2020 at 7:53 pm

    BTW…..don’t the “climate change” computer models swear that if a Communist Chinese Butterfly farts then it causes a Caribbean Hurricane?

      notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital in reply to notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital. | April 6, 2020 at 8:10 pm

      OH MY!

      Did the computer models predict all these crazy things being used by people now as “masks????”

      With Masks Unavailable, People Get Creative.
      Too Creative.

      Some odd improvised masks:

        Modeling is the Science of Predicting the Past.

        Scientists create models and then see if they can adequately explain previous trends and situations. The ONLY way to validate a model is to see if it works with past data.

        Then, they use it to predict the future based upon a series of assumptions which may or may not be valid.

          Which is why “Global Climate Change” models will never be validated.

          Models must at minimum match past observations; but, generally, they are hypotheses to forecast, in a scientific domain, or predict, in the philosophical domain, the future.

      Many of us have watch very closely as 97% of All Climate Scientists during more than the past 30 years have been wrong about hurricane, sea level, sea ice, drought, floods, polar bears, coral reefs, etc, etc, etc.

      One of the reasons that 97% of All Climate Scientists have been so constantly and spectacularly wrong are their Climate Models and their mistaken delusion that the trace gas CO2 is a magic climate control knob. It is not. The Global Warming Industry pushes Global Warming Climate Model Data as if it were actual evidence. Climate Model projections bear little in common with reality.

      Model Data is not evidence. When Model Data conflicts with observational evidence you know your models are wrong, well you do know you are wrong if you are not one of the 97% of all Climate Scientists.

      The Wuhan Coronavirus model predictions seem to be almost as bad. The difference we see regarding the Coronavirus Models and the Catastrophic Global Warming(CAGW)computer models is that the scientists are revamping and correcting their assumptions. This is because their are bodies, the virus is real whereas the hype and drama regarding global warming is a fabrication.

        You’re entirely correct, models are fun and sometime informative “What if” exercises, but are only as good as the assumptions underlying them, they are NOT predictive unless or until those assumptions are proven correct.

        CO2 being a driving force behind global climate warming is an assumption common to almost all the Doom & Gloom models that predict global catastrophe. And…., it’s pretty set that there IS a positive correlation between global temp and global CO2 levels. Unfortunately – for the wannabe Paul E. crowd – it’s in the wrong direction. Polar ice core samples have conclusively confirmed that correlation. Unfortunately, for panic at least, dating shows a century wide lag in the wrong direction. CO2 goes up a century after warming, which would indicate that warming causes higher CO2, NOT that higher CO2 causes warming. Ouch.

        I was in Uni taking geology courses (with a computer Sci minor) when the major weekly news magazines in the US were running cover stories back in the day about “The Coming Ice Age”. Very scary stuff, based on the “best” computer models, and of course as it turned out complete rubbish. I still recall one of my profs who taught in both fields saying that the models were unlikely to be sound reflections of the Real World, as climate was too chaotic and complicated for useful modeling. And, to boot, that the few models of CO2 causing runaway warming turning Earth into Venus were also rubbish, seeing that geologic history shows much much higher CO2 levels in the past without that spiral happening.

          jb4 in reply to BobM. | April 8, 2020 at 8:27 am

          Who cares about Global Warming now anyway. Reduced numbers of people, reduced travel, reduced economic activity equals reduced emissions. We must have added at least a day to AOC’s “we are all gonna die” 2030 deadline. Somehow, I do not think these Climate Change model geniuses will learn much from the Covid models of a much less chaotic system changing dramatically on a weekly basis. However, I do suspect Trump will learn something about being “had” by the early projection of 2 million deaths if he did nothing.

    notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital in reply to notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital. | April 7, 2020 at 12:07 am

    ABC’s Jonathan Karl Invites Chinese Communist Party to Attend White House Coronavirus Briefing…
    Posted by sundance
    Remember when President Trump said the U.S. media were the enemy of the American people? Well, consider this… In another clear example of how the U.S. media will do anything in their effort to undermine President Trump, yesterday they held hands with Chinese communists.

    ABC News chief Washington DC narrative engineer Jonathan Karl is the current rotating head of the White House Correspondents Association (WHCA). The WHCA has a customary and traditional role of selecting the journalists who will participate in the White House daily briefing.

    Yesterday WHCA head Jonathan Karl invited a known propagandist for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) into the briefing room to question President Trump. However, President Trump immediately pegged the CCP propagandist and asked her directly:…

    The Last Reguge

    It’s a horrible thing to learn half your fellow Americans have either sold you out, or are too lame or narcissistic to not vote for fascists.
    The emeny is within. It started with bill clinton ad reached a zenith with obama.
    Trump has exposed it all.

My take on models is very simple:

1) Provide the EXACT DATA SET that you entered into the model. No ifs, ands, or buts. The EXACT data.

2) Provide the EXACT CALCULATIONS of the model at every step.

If you aren’t willing to do those things? You’re a liar, straight up.

REAL scientists slap their data and models on the desk, dare others to prove them wrong, and glory in the fact that they can’t.

Con men and liars pushing an agenda hide their data, refuse to release the parameters of their models, and yet demand huge amounts of money be spent because of their ‘conclusions’.

All of these bullshit Chinese Coronavirus models are a JOKE. If you actually think ‘social distancing’ prevented 2 million deaths you’re insane.

They’re still refusing to provide the actual numbers they used. But based on calculations, it seems like they used DRAMATICALLY inflated infection and fatality rates to get them. Shocking nobody.

    TX-rifraph in reply to Olinser. | April 6, 2020 at 8:34 pm

    Con men and liars attack anyone who asks questions about any aspect of their data, model, or conclusions. Honest people want to be right. Con men and liars want to be believed.

    SeekingRationalThought in reply to Olinser. | April 6, 2020 at 9:20 pm

    Run some compound interest calculations at high interest rates and you can see how quickly we could reach 2 million or more. Assume everyone infected can infect 2 people and that within five days those two can infect four more. I think the current estimate is that the average carrier infects 2.6 others. Start at 10,000 and see where you end up. By my rough calculation, this gets you to 2,560,000 infections by day 40.

The trouble with climate change isn’t the models but the science. They have no adult peer review.

Their hydrodynamics would be rejected by hydrodynamics experts.

Their statistics would be rejected by statistics experts.

But not by climate experts, who do the peer reviews for them.

Say you’re expert in one or two of the climate science tool fields, and you notice that they don’t understand them. That’s enough, without you yourself being a climate expert, to reject the entire field.

Because they have no competent peer review.

    n.n in reply to rhhardin. | April 7, 2020 at 12:57 pm

    Climate science suffers from confirmation bias, of course, also associated special and peculiar interests that hope to annually reap trillions of dollars in redistributive change. It’s notably a matter of competing interests creating and exploiting leverage through em-pathetic appeals, phobic projections, and catastrophic prophecies of chaos (“evolution”) that can be estimated with progressive (i.e. diminishing) accuracy but not predicted.

What most people do not understand about modeling is that the larger the area covered, by the model, and the more complicated the environment, the more likely the model will be prone to failure. In the case of the COVID-19 virus, the initial data was not only far to scant to provide accurate predictions. To flesh out the models, the creators made assumptions. Now, we are all familiar with what making assumptions does to the people making them. But, that did not stop people from arriving at spurious conclusions. To make matters worse, people often have a tendency to skew their projections toward the worst case scenario.

Now, it is not a bad idea to set up possible future actions which may mitigate the problem under study. However, those mitigating actions should not be taken until there is a reasonable likelihood that they will actually be of benefit. Again, the people handling the response to this virus simply ran with their pet theory, hoping to prove it valid. And, they used the faulty models to justify that response.

One always has to remember, that it is not necessary to amputate a man’s leg, because he has a large cut, until it becomes obvious that gangrene has set in. otherwise the man can bleed to death or end up a needless cripple.. The medical profession seems to have forgotten that in this case.

Two things.
This reminds me of the Medium(?) article reviewed here a few weeks ago where the guy did a bunch of math with available statistics and said it wasn’t going to be a huge killer. It was up for a day then Medium took it down because of complaints from some liberal.

And then there was this –

Note this link is from 3/17/20

If we assume that case fatality rate among individuals infected by SARS-CoV-2 is 0.3% in the general population — a mid-range guess from my Diamond Princess analysis — and that 1% of the U.S. population gets infected (about 3.3 million people), this would translate to about 10,000 deaths. This sounds like a huge number, but it is buried within the noise of the estimate of deaths from “influenza-like illness.” If we had not known about a new virus out there, and had not checked individuals with PCR tests, the number of total deaths due to “influenza-like illness” would not seem unusual this year. At most, we might have casually noted that flu this season seems to be a bit worse than average. The media coverage would have been less than for an NBA game between the two most indifferent teams.
more at link

OH Deplorable | April 6, 2020 at 9:26 pm

The quick and dirty translation of that computer model, garbage in garbage out.

when 1250 climate models have been wrong in a 20 year span, they are not likely to slowly correct themselves. Indeed, as many groups who actually work on the environment (not climate, but on reforestation, restocking, etc.) point out, climate science does absolutely nothing for the environment. Nothing. It does not create parks, wild life corridors, clean up bays, estuaries and rivers, restock streams, clean the plastic off beaches, plant shade trees over streams, fisheries, crab species and mollusks, oyster and clam beds, build nature walks, make our forest trees resistant to invasive diseases and insects, or any other real environmental work.
Climate is an excuse to impose leftism and to enrich politicians and their friends. It has been turned into a cult by persistent propaganda, primarily upon the young and or the stupid…which is the core of the left, world wide.
With Goldman Sachs etc. selling carbon credits…you have all you need to know about what “climate change” is about.

The best math is a simple equation that reflects reality such as E = I*R (calculation for electrical voltage). Failing that, people can model, but that is wandering into an area of something that is less reliable. The big question, which no one asks, is, “Does the model converge?”. It has to converge on real data or at least another independent set of equations such as E = I*R. We have people accepting models that don’t converge. Any model that doesn’t converge is flawed. That should be the accepted fact.

We should demand that the Global Warming advocates prove their theory before we pay attention to it.

They need to predict the future climate change and record their predictions. If the models predictions vary then they need to prove that one set of predictions is correct. This should be easy because “the science is settled”.

Next, they need to develop a reliable way to measure the earth’s climate. This method can’t require that the data be fixed to support GW as the advocates are wont to do.

Then we need to measure the climate for the next 100 years and compare it with the predictions. If the predictions match the real world data then the theory has validity.

However, we would need to develop a different fix for GW because the cure proposed by GW advocates is worse than the problem.

C’mon man, everyone knows GIGO.

Garbage in, garbage out

Thankfully, Trump has said many times that he does not want the cure to be worse than the disease. I think he will wise-up quickly when he sees numbers coming in “way too low”. Here is my prediction of what he will then do:
– Declare victory, because his administration’s efforts have led the American people to turn the curve downward, taking political advantage of bad modeling.
– Recommend everyone under age X without a compromising condition to go back to work. (That is what he should do.)
– Then if the Hydroxychloroquine + Azithromycin + Zinc treatment works, as I expect, he will recommend everyone else go back.
– Heads may roll of those whose bad advice caused the destruction of his “big, beautiful economy”. He will also become even more distrustful of the climate change folks.

    notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital in reply to jb4. | April 7, 2020 at 1:01 am

    SPOT ON!!!!!!!

    And Trump doesn’t get even, he gets all.

inspectorudy | April 7, 2020 at 12:50 am

Guess who makes up almost all models of anything? Academia. Do any of you know of a conservative academic? The public health workers are also very liberal as a group. The Univ. of Washington made the model being used that has been off by a factor of 10. Dr. Brix is on the board of Directors of Bill Gates foundation and they are supporters of that model. Does this seem to be a tail chase? It seems like every time there is anything that is bad for Trump, once the cover is off, there always appears to be some nefarious connections between the reporters or accusers. I am starting to believe that this reaction to this terrible virus is the Dem’s last-ditch effort to dump Trump. They have the msm, academia, public health people and most social media on their side. The way the msm has handled this is totally adversarial. Is there any other way to interpret this?

    notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital in reply to inspectorudy. | April 7, 2020 at 12:58 am

    Rudy you Win the Internet for Today!!!!!!!!!!!

    tom_swift in reply to inspectorudy. | April 7, 2020 at 1:46 am

    “Dem’s last-ditch effort”? Hardly. You underestimate their monomania.

    Do any of you know of a conservative academic? The public health workers are also very liberal as a group.
    It’s not necessarily politics (though that is an indicator, imo). For the sorts of doctors and such who don’t actually treat patients on a regular basis, I think there’s a mentality of Zero Risk (or Zero Infection). The same sorts of folks who see merry-go-round injuries and think “That’s preventable!” and thereby ban all merry-go-rounds. They think “We can stop this virus in its tracks!” and advocate for something that might do so – regardless of its other consequences.

    Since Zero Risk doesn’t work in day-to-day real life, I think the folks who develop that sort of mentality end up in academia and bureaucracy. Doctors in patient practice have a more “nuanced” approach.

Liberals are taking their marching orders and defending the Chi-Comms.

What more do you need to know than this whole thing was a Chi-Comm attack?

I have concluded that the Fauci/Birx model were spun-off from the climate change models. Neither have been very good at predicting anything but both walk us right into global communist government.

Come to Oregon where they are using “nothing much happening” as further justification to shut down even more stuff. I guess they haven’t been able cause enough misery to incite people to vote for creepy Joe.

My “All your ventilators are belong to us” signed Gov Andrew Cuomo sign is still in its prominent position in the display window of a weekly paper box at a busy intersection. Perhaps only the easily offended and duped are staying home.

Thanks to the LI contributor who updated this classic. It is PI on so many levels. 😉