Transcript: Jay Ulfelder: Forecasting Conflict | Apr 28, 2014

Steve sits in his studio. A screen behind him reads “The Agenda with Steve Paikin.”
He’s in his late forties; he has short curly brown hair and is clean shaven. He’s wearing a light blue shirt, a blue tie and a deep blue suit.

Steve SAYS IT IS A GLOBAL
PEACEKEEPER'S FANTASY SAYS BEING
ABLE TO PREDICT WHERE VIOLENCE
WILL BREAK OUT ACROSS THE WORLD
SO HE KNOWS WHERE TO LOOK, AND
TARGET HIS OR HER RESOURCES
ACCORDINGLY.
JAY ULFELDER IS A CONSULTANT
FOR THE CENTRE FOR THE
PREVENTION OF GENOCIDE AT THE
UNITED STATES HOLOCAUST
MEMORIAL MUSEUM IN WASHINGTON
DC.
AND HE'S WORKING TO MAKE THAT
DREAM A REALITY FOR BOTH
GOVERNMENTS AND THE AVERAGE
CITIZEN.
AND HE JOINS US NOW FOR MORE
FROM THE AMERICAN CAPITAL.

Jay appears on a screen in front of Steve. He’s in his forties, has short brown hair and is clean-shaven. He’s wearing a light blue shirt, a red tie and a light gray suit.
A caption below them reads “Forecasting conflict.”

Steve says JAY, IT'S GAD OF I TO BE WITH
US.

Steve smiles and says I MUST CONFESS THE LINE OF WORK
THAT YOU ARE IN SEEMS VERY ODD
AND EXOTIC.
CAN YOU TELL US HOW ONE BECOMES
A FORECASTER.

Jay smiles and answers YEAH, I THINK IT IS ODD AND EXOTIC.
I DON'T KNOW ANYBODY ELSE WHO
IS DOING THIS AT LEAST IN THE
SAME WAY I AM.

A caption below him reads “Jay Ulfelder, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.”

He continues I ESSENTIALLY STUMBLED INTO
THIS WORK.
FINISHED A PHD IN POLITICAL
SCIENCE IN 1997 AND I DIDN'T
HAVE AN ACADEMIC JOB.

The caption changes to “Forecasting Conflict, Conflict Meteorologist.”

He continues NEEDED TO LOOK FOR WORK.
AND I'M ORIGINALLY FROM THE
WASHINGTON AREA SO MOVED BACK
HERE WITH MY WIFE.
AND I WORKED IN A COUPLE OF
KIND OF RELATED JOBS, AND THEN
UNRELATED JOBS.
TING SOME FREELANCE JOURNALISM.

Steve SAYS LET ME ASK YOU ABOUT
THE RELATED JOBS.
I FATHER YOU WERE RESEARCH
DIRECTOR AT THE GOVERNMENT'S POLITICAL
INSTABILITY TASK FORCE.
WHAT DID YOU HAVE TO DO WITH
THAT WORK.

He answers THAT'S WHERE I FINALLY GOT
LUCKY AND GOT A JOB THAT LET ME
BITE INTO SOMETHING SUBSTANTIVE
WITH THE TRAINING I HAD.
WE WERE ESSENTIALLY BEING PAID
BY THE U.S. GOVERNMENT, THIS IS
A PANEL OF ACADEMICS FROM
INSTITUTIONS PRIMARILY AROUND
THE U.S., USING OPEN SOURCE
DATA TO TRY TO DEVELOP
STATISTICAL MODELS THAT COULD
FORECAST DIFFERENT FORMS OF BAD
POLITICAL THINGS HAPPENING
ESSENTIALLY IN COUNTRIES AROUND
THE WORLD A YEAR TO TWO OUT SO
I WAS MANAGING, OVERSEEING AND
CONDUCTING RESEARCH FOR THAT
GROUP.

Steve SAYS LET'S GET MORE
SPECIFIC.
YOUR WORK THROUGH THE HOLOCAUST
MUSEUM IN CONTACT DC HAS YOU
WORKING ON A WEB BASED SYSTEM
TO FORECAST MASS ATROCITIES.
EXPLAIN TO US WHAT EXACTLY YOU
ARE DOING.

Jay says THERE ARE A COUPLE OF PARTS
TO IT FROM A TECHNICAL
PERSPECTIVE BUT IN A LARGER
SENSE WE ARE TRYING TO BUILD A
SYSTEM, AS YOU SAID, TO PROVIDE
GLOBAL FORECASTING OF MASS
VIOLENCE, DELIBERATE VIOLENCE
DELIVERED AGAIN CIVILIANS.
THE POINT OF THE PROGRAM IS
PREVENTION.
WE BELIEVE THAT A BETTER EARLY
WARNING PROVIDES MORE
OPPORTUNITIES FOR PREVENTIONS.
WE ARE TRYING TO TAKE THE BEST
FORECASTING METHODS AND APPLY
THEM SPECIFICALLY TO THE
PROBLEM OF ANTICIPATING MASS
ATROCITIES.
THERE HAVE BEEN OTHER HE HAVE
PORTS TO DO EARLY FORECASTING.
BUT A LOT OF IT IS AD HOC.
REACTING TO CONFLICT THAT’S UNDERWAY OR USING FORECASTING EFFORTS THAT WEREN’T NECESSARILY USING THE BEST AVAILABLE METHODS.
SO WE ARE TRYING TO FOCUS ON
MASS ATROCITIES AND BRING THE
BEST AVAILABLE METHODS TO THE PROBLEM.
WE ARE DOING STATISTICAL RISK
ASSESSMENT.
SO BUILDING A SET OF
STATISTICAL MODELS AND THEN TAKING THE FORECASTS FROM THEM AND
AVERAGING THEM;
LOOKING AT ALL COUNTRIES OF THE
WORLD AT LEAST ONCE A YEAR.
THEN USING A SORT OF WISDOM OF
EXPERT CROWD SYSTEM AS A KIND
OF COMPLEMENT TO THAT WHERE WE
HAVE A LARGE POOL OR HOPEFULLY
LARGE POOL OF PEOPLE WITH
SUBJECT MATTER EXPERTISE,
REGIONAL EXPERTISE WHO
WE BASICALLY ASK HOW LIKELY DO
THINK, CERTAIN EVENTS WE’RE CONCERNED ABOUT
ARE IN THE TIME FRAME WE’RE FOCUSED ON AND UPDATE THOSE FORECASTS
AS WE GET A LIVE READ OUT ON WHAT THIS POOL OF EXPERTS THINKS, WHERE THESE RISKS ARE AND HOW THOSE ARE CHANGING OVER TIME.

Steve SAYS LET'S SEE IF WE CAN
FIGURE THIS OUT EVEN FURTHER.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT
TECHNIQUES THAT FORECASTERS
SUCH AS YOURSELF MIGHT USE WHEN
ASSESSING RISK LEVEL?

The caption changes to “Forecasting conflict, targeting attention.”

Jay answers YEAH, I THINK THE TWO I JUST
MENTIONED ARE TWO OF THE MAIN
TOOLS, STATISTICAL RISK
ASSESSMENT.
THIS WISDOM OF EXPERT CROWDS
COMPONENT A NEWER ONE BUT
THERE'S A LOT OF ON GOING
RESEARCH RIGHT NOW
DEMONSTRATING THAT IT ACTUALLY
WORKS PRETTY WELL.
INDIVIDUAL EXPERTS TEND TO NOT
BE GOOD AT FORECASTING BUT IF
YOU AVERAGE FORECAST AGAINST A
BUNCH OF THEM YOU CAN READ EACH
ON HARD TOPICS LIKE MASS ATROCITIES OR OTHER GEOPOLITICAL EVENTS.
SOME FORECASTERS USE GAME
MODELS THAT REPRESENT A
SITUATION OR PROBLEM AND YOU
MIGHT, YOU KNOW, THEN, WHAT
ESSENTIALLY VARIES IN THOSE
CASES ARE WHAT ARE THE INPUTS,
INTERESTS IN VALUE.

Steve SAYS THAT'S WHAT I'M
GETTING AT.
LET ME JUMP IN THERE ON THAT.
BECAUSE OBVIOUSLY IF THERE'S A
POLITICAL ASSASSINATION THAT'S
AN INPUT.
IF THERE'S A DROUGHT IN A
COUNTRY THAT'S AN INPUT.
WHAT OTHER THINGS LIKE THAT ARE
YOU LOOKING FOR.

He answers YEAH, THOSE MAYBE AND SO PART,
ONE OF THE REASONS I TEND TO
USE STATISTICAL MODELING MOST
OFTEN, ONE OF THE REASONS IS IT
ALLOWS US TO ANSWER EMPIRICALLY WHICH ARE THE FACTORS
TO BE MOST CONCERNED ABOUT.
SO WITH FORECASTING VIOLENT
POLITICAL CONFLICT ON KIND OF A
LARGE SCALE, THE SORT OF MOST
FUNDAMENTAL THINGS ARE JUST THE
POPULATION SIZE OF A COUNTRY
BUT ALSO MORE PARTICULARLY
LEVELS OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
AND THERE I ACTUALLY FOUND THAT

- AND MANY OF US HAVE, INFANT
MORTALITY RATES TURN OUT TO BE
AN ESPECIALLY SENSITIVE
INDICATOR, MORE SO THAN A
COUNTRY'S GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT FOR EXAMPLE BECAUSE,
IT PICKS UP, NOT JUST HOW WEALTHY A COUNTRY IS, BUT ALSO SOME ISSUES OF INEQUALITY, AND THE LIKE.
FEATURES OF A COUNTRY’S POLITICAL
INSTITUTION.
HOW DEMOCRATIC, AUTHORITARIAN
IS IT?
AND SOME SORT OF DETAILS ON
THAT.
HOW POLARIZED POLITICS IS BECOMING.
ASPECTS OF HOW ETHNICITY
RELATES TO POLITICS.
NOT JUST ARE THERE GROUPS BUT
ARE THEY FORMALLY EXCLUDED FROM
POLITICS.
DISTRIBUTIONS OF NATURAL RESOURCES.
HOW THE ECONOMY IS PERFORMING
RECENTLY.
THOSE ARE THE KINDS OF THINGS
WE TEND TO LOOK AT.
BUT AGAIN ONE OF THE NICE THINGS OF
STATISTICAL MODELING IS WE CAN PUT THOSE THINGS IN A MODEL AND
GET FROM HISTORICAL EVIDENCE, SOME CLEAR SENSE OF WHICH OF THEM MATTER MORE THAN OTHERS
AND THINKING WITH WHERE THE
RISKS ARE.

Steve SAYS I ALMOST RESIST
ASKING THIS QUESTION BUT I
THINK I HAVE TO, ONCE YOU PUT
ALL THOSE ELEMENTS IN AND YOU
ARE LAING AT THE GROB, WHAT
REGION OR COUNTRIES ARE AT THE
TOP OF THE LIST?

Jay answers YEAH, THE WORK I'M DOING
RIGHT NOW FOR THIS PROJECT FOR THE
CENTRE FOR THE PREVENTION OF
GENOCIDE, THERE WE ARE FOCUSING
ON NOT CONFLICT IN A GENERAL
SENSE BUT MORE SPECIFICALLY ON RISKS OF
MASS ATROCITIES.
THERE THE REGIONS THAT POP OUT RIGHT
NOW ARE SOUTH ASIA AND SORT OF
A BAND OF COUNTRIES ACROSS
NORTHERN CENTRAL AFRICA SO IN
SOUTH ASIA, AFGHANISTAN,
BANGLADESH, INDIA, ACTUALLY
TURNS OUT TO BE RELATIVELY HIGH
RISK.
SRI LANKA.
IRAQ AS WELL.
THEN MOVING INTO AFRICA, A BAND OF COUNTRIES, UGANDA AND RWANDA ACTUALLY, ACCORDING TO OUR MODELLING A BAND SEEM TO BE HIGH
RISK FOR THESE TYPE OF THINGS.
ETHIOPIA, SOMALIA.
AND MOVING THROUGH CENTRAL
AFRICA.
THERE ARE A NUMBER OF COUNTRIES
THIS IS HAPPENING ALREADY.
INCLUDING THOSE REGIONS.
PLACES LIKE SYRIA, SUDAN, SOUTH
SUDAN, CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC.

Steve SAYS EVERYBODY WHO FOLLOWS
THE NEWS, YOU PUT OUT A GOOD
LIST OF COUNTRIES.
AND I SUSPECT IF YOU FOLLOW THE NEWS YOU
WOULD SAY OF COURSE.
I GUESS WHAT I WONDER IS THERE
A REGION OR COUNTRY ON YOUR
LIST WHICH, YOU KNOW, YOU
WOULDN'T EXPECT TO SEE ON THAT
LIST?

He answers RIGHT, RIGHT.
YEAH, THAT'S REALLY, I THINK,
WHERE THE STATISTICAL OR THIS
KIND OF FORECASTING IN GENERAL
IS MOST POWERFUL, LOOKING FOR
THE CASES THAT SEEM TO BE MORE
COUNTER INTUITIVE.
INDIA IS ONE I MENTIONED.
YOU MIGHT THINK OF IT AS A
PLACE FOR VIOLENT CONFLICT BUT
NOT NECESSARILY THE MASS
ATROCITIES I WAS DESCRIBING.
IN WEST AFRICA.
GUINEA.
GUINEA IS ONE THAT IS JUST NOT
REALLY ON THE, PART OF THE
CONVERSATION ON ATROCITIES
PREVENTION RIGHT NOW BUT THAT'S
A COUNTRY THAT OUR MODELING
SUGGESTS OUGHT TO BE.
THERE OUGHT TO BE MORE
ATTENTION TO IT.
UGANDA AGAIN.
SO BERUNDI IS GETTING A LOT OF
ATTENTION. AS A PLACE WHERE THE UPCOMING ELECTIONS, WHERE THE RISK OF VIOLENCE AGAINST CIVILIANS SEEM TO BE ESCALATING.
OUR MODELING SUGGESTS IT'S NOT
SO NECESSARILY HIGHLY AT RISK
WHEREAS NEARBY UGANDA IS.
AND THAT’S NOT A CASE THAT’S GETTING SO MUCH ATTENTION.
THAT'S REALLY WHAT WE WANT TO
TRY TO DO WITH THESE MODELS IS
HIGHLIGHT THE CASES THAT WE
AREN'T PAYING AS MUCH ATTENTION
TO NOW AND TRY TO GET MORE
ATTENTION FOCUSED THERE AGAIN
IN HOPES OF SPURRING
PREVENTATIVE EFFORTS.

Steve SAYS LET ME READ SOMETHING
THAT A PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL
SCIENCE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF NORTH TEXAS WROTE I GUESS IN THE
MIDDLE OF 2013 AND GET YOU TO
COMMENT ON IT.
HE WROTE,

A slate appears. It reads “Questioning the math” as a title.

Steve reads “WHAT LEVEL OF
PRECISION IS NEEDED BEFORE
MAKING LIFE AND DEATH
DECISIONS?
IT IS FORETOLD THAT THERE IS AN 80 PERCENT CHANCE THAT NORTH
KOREA WILL ATTACK THE SOUTH IN THE NEXT YEAR, IS THIS SUFFICIENT TO LAUNCH A PREEMPTIVE STRIKE? IS 95 PERCENT OR 99 PERCENT CONFIDENCE A BETTER BENCHMARK? DECISIONS BASED UPON BELIEFS ABOUT THE FUTURE ALWAYS HAVE A DEGREE OF UNCERTAINTY ASSOCIATED WITH THEM, BUT THERE IS NO CLEAR ETHICAL STANDARD FOR ASSESSING THE TRADEOFF BETWEEN THOUSANDS OF LIVES AND THE RISK OF BEING ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE PROBABILITY DISTRIBUTION.”
The quote belongs to Idean Salehyan. The monkey cage, July 28, 2013.

Steve says THIS GETS TO THE ISSUE ABOUT
HOW COMFORTABLE YOU ARE KNOWING
THE GOVERNMENTS WILL TAKE YOUR
INFORMATION AND MAKE MILITARY
DECISIONS BASED ON THE EFFECT
THAT NOTHING IS 100 PERCENT.
AND YOU’RE DEALING WITH PROBABILITIES OBVIOUSLY;
WHAT DO YOU SAY TO THAT.

The caption changes to “Forecasting Conflict, the numbers game.”

Jay says HE'S RIGHT.
IN THE SENSE THAT IT'S NOT A
CLEAR, AN AREA WHERE WE HAVE
TALKED A LOT ABOUT THE
ETHICS OF THIS.
I THINK AS FORECASTERS WE HAVE
AN ETHICAL OBLIGATION FIRST OF
ALL TO BE CLEAR THAT WE CAN'T
GIVE PRECISE FORECASTS ABOUT CONFLICT.
THERE WILL BE UNCERTAINTY.
WE ARE NOT AT THE POINT
WHERE WE CAN SAY HERE IS WHERE
THE NEXT CONFLICT WILL BE AND I
CAN TELL YOU WITH GREAT
CONFIDENCE WHERE THAT IS AND
THEREFORE, YOU KNOW, THIS IS
WHAT YOU OUGHT TO DO IN
RESPONSE TO THAT.
BUT THE FLIP SIDE OF THAT IS,
ORGANIZATIONS, WHETHER IT'S
GOVERNMENTS OR OTHER
ORGANIZATIONS, ARE MAKING
PLANNING DECISIONS AND DO HAVE
TO MAKE THOSE CHOICES SO THE
WAY I LOOK AT IT, WE HAVE AN
ETHICAL OBLIGATION TO GIVE THEM
THE BEST INFORMATION WE CAN
ABOUT WHERE THE RISKS ARE.
AGAIN, ALONG WITH BEING
APPROPRIATELY CIRCUMSPECT
ABOUT HOW RELIABLE THE
FORECASTS WE GIVE THEM ARE.
AND WE DO KNOW FROM EXTENSIVE
RESEARCH ON FORECASTING THAT
JUST HAVING THEM ASK KIND OF
THE MOST CONVENIENT COUNTRY
EXPERTS OR SITTING AROUND A
TABLE AND TALKING ABOUT WHERE
THEY THINK THE RISKS ARE, ARE
NOT VERY RELIABLE WAYS TO GET
THAT INFORMATION, DOING THINGS
LIKE STATISTICAL MODELING OR
THE WISDOM OF CROWDS I WAS TALKING
ABOUT OR USING OTHER FORMAL
TECHNIQUES THAT KIND OF
DISCIPLINE YOUR PROCESS OF
ASSESSING RISKS WILL GIVE YOU
BETTER INFORMATION.
IT'S NOT GOING TO BE PERFECT
AND IT'S GOING TO BE FAR FROM
PERFECT BUT IT WILL BE BETTER
THAN THE KIND OF THE STATUS QUO
PRACTICE THAT IS CONVENTIONALLY
USED.

Steve SAYS BETTER THAN PUNDINTRY?

Jay smiles and says ESSENTIALLY RIGHT.
OR THE KIND OF, YOU KNOW THE
KIND DEFERENCE TO EXPERTISE THAT WE
OFTEN DO THINGS LIKE THIS. YOU ARE CONCERNED
ABOUT WHAT IS HAPPENING IN
ETHIOPIA THE DEFAULT IS TO ASK
THE PERSON YOU THINK KNOWS MOST
ABOUT ETHIOPIA.
THAT PERSON WILL HAVE A LOT OF
VALUABLE INFORMATION ABOUT A
LOT OF THINGS BUT WE KNOW FROM
RESEARCH ON FORECASTING IT
WON'T BE A TERRIBLE ACCURATE FORECASTER
OF THE RISK OF CIVIL WAR IN ETHIOPIA.
YOU WILL BE BETTER TO ASK A
CROWD OF PEOPLE THAT KNOW ABOUT
ETHIOPIA AND SOMETHING ABOUT CIVIL WARS OR USE A MODEL THAT
CAN MORE OBJECTIVELY WEIGH THE
EVIDENCE AND COMPARE IT ALONG A LARGE NUMBER OF CASES.
IF WE BELIEVE WE CAN GET NOT
PERFECT BUT BETTER THAN THE
STATUS QUO FORECASTS BY USING THE
TECHNIQUES I ACTUALLY BELIEVE WE HAVE
THE ETHICAL OBLIGATION TO DO
THAT WORK AND PROVIDE THE BEST
INFORMATION POSSIBLE GIVEN STAKES ARE SO
HIGH.

Steve SAYS SURE I SEE THAT.
JUST WONDERING THOUGH,
BUT IF WE WERE HAVING THE
CONVERSATION SAY A YEAR AGO
WOULD YOU AT SOME POINT IN THE
CONVERSATION HAVE SAID TO ME,
YOU KNOW THE CENTRAL AFRICAN
REPUBLIC LOOKS LIKE IT'S ABOUT
TO BLOW?

YEAH, THAT CASE ACTUALLY WAS
ONE THAT OUR STATISTICAL
MODELING WHICH WE HAD DONE IN EARLY 2013
IDENTIFIED AS HIGH RISK OF MASS
ATROCITIES.
THEN WE ASKED OUR POOL OF EXPERTS ABOUT IT
WHO REALLY
IMMEDIATELY IDENTIFIED IT
AS AN EXTREMELY HIGH RISK CASE.
WE STARTED THAT SYSTEM IN THE
FALL.
SO THAT'S WHY WE ARE ASKING IT.
SO THAT HAPPENS TO BE A CASE
WHERE OUR FORECASTS USING THE METHODS I WAS
TALKING ABOUT WOULD HAVE BEEN
ACCURATE.
SYRIA IS ONE WE PROBABLY
WOULDN'T HAVE BEEN AS ACCURATE
WITH THE MODELS I'M WORKING
WITH NOW.
SO IT'S NOT GOING TO BE
PERFECT.
AGAIN, I THINK IT'S ALSO PART
OF OUR ETHICAL OBLIGATION TO BE
CLEAR ABOUT THAT.
BUT AGAIN, I THINK WHAT WE
WILL SEE USING THESE KINDS OF
TECHNIQUES IS OVER TIME WILL TEND
TO GIVE BETTER INFORMATION AND
THAT'S A BETTER PLACE FOR THOSE
DECISION MAKERS TO BE.
IT’S ALSO, I DON'T THINK ANYBODY
IS OUT THERE -- AND THIS IS A
GOOD THING, I DON'T THINK
ANYBODY IN THE MILITARY OUT THERE IS
SAYING GIVE ME THE NUMBERS AND
I'LL PRESS THE BUTTON KIND OF
THING.
I'M GLAD WE DON'T LIVE THIS
THAT WORLD.
THESE FORECASTS ARE ONE PIECE
OF INFORMATION AMONG MANY THEY
ARE CONSIDERING SO GIVING THEM
ONE SOMEWHAT BETTER PIECE OF
INFORMATION IS A GOOD THING.

Steve SAYS AND I GUESS YOU HAVE
TO WORRY ABOUT WHAT YOU FOLKS
IN THE TRADE CALL BLACK SWANS.
WHAT ARE THEY?

Jay answers ABSOLUTELY.
I THINK THE FORMAL DEFINITION
OF THAT IS THE SORT OF VERY LOW
PROBABILITY, HARD TO ANTICIPATE
BUT HIGH IMPACT KINDS OF
EVENTS.
IN A SENSE, ALL OF THE KINDS OF
FORECASTING I'M WORKING ON COME
CLOSE TO THAT.
I THINK THE PHRASE GREY SWANS
FOR EVENTS WHERE THEY MAY BE
SOMEWHAT MORE PREDICTABLE BUT ARE STILL RARE,
HARD TO GET A HANDLE ON, I
THINK THAT IS MORE WHAT WE ARE
DOING.
EVEN AT THE LEVEL OF CIVIL WARS
AS ACADEMICS DEFINE THEM.
WE ONLY SEE A FEW NEW CIVIL
WARS START AROUND THE WORLD
EACH YEAR SO THESE ARE RARE
EVENTS.
THEY ARE INHERENTLY CLOSE TO BLACK SWAN
TERRITORY WHICH AGAIN IS PART
OF WHAT MAKES IT HARD WORK TO
DO AND WHY WE CAN GIVE USEFUL
INFORMATION BUT WE ARE
CERTAINLY NOT AS PRECISE AS WE
WOULD LIKE TO BE.

The caption changes to “Forecasting conflict, a murky crystal ball.”

Steve SAYS DO YOU THINK WE ARE
EVER GOING TO GET TO THE DAY
WHEN THE INPUTS YOU ARE ABLE TO
PUT INTO YOUR COMPUTER ARE SO
ACCURATE AND PREDICTIVE OF WHAT
WILL HAPPEN?
I DON'T KNOW, IS THAT MOMENT
TEN YEARS AWAY WHERE YOU CAN
ACTUALLY DELIVER THAT
INFORMATION TO DECISION MAKERS
AND SAY, YOU GOTTA GET IN THERE
BECAUSE THIS THING'S GOING TO
HAPPEN AND HERE'S HOW I KNOW
IT.

He answers NO, I ACTUALLY -- I DON'T
THINK -- NOT ONLY WILL WE NOT
SEE THAT IN MY LIFETIME, I
THINK THAT'S JUST INHERENTLY
UNATAINABLE BECAUSE THE
PROCESSES THAT PRODUCE THESE
KIND OF EVENTS ARE SO COMPLEX
AND CONTINGENT THAT WE WILL
NEVER BE ABLE TO FORECAST THEM
AT LEAST WITH ANY KIND OF
SERIOUS LEAD TIME EVER.
IT'S JUST TOO COMPLEX OF A
SYSTEM.
WHAT WE CAN HOPE TO DO IS JUST
KEEP MARGINALLY IMPROVING THE
MODELS WE ARE WORKING WITH NOW.
NOW WE CAN DO A PRETTY GOOD JOB
IDENTIFYING WHAT A COUPLE DOZEN
COUNTRIES AROUND THE WORLD ARE
THAT MAY BE AT ESPECIALLY HIGH
RISK.
I THINK IT'S PLAUSIBLE WITHIN
MY LIFETIME WE MIGHT BE ABLE TO
GET THAT DOWN TO A DOZEN OR
SOMETHING LIKE THAT.
USING NEW AND BETTER DATA.
BUT WE ARE NEVER GOING TO BE AT
THE LEVEL OF WEATHER
FORECASTING FOR EXAMPLE.

He chuckles and says WHICH PEOPLE LIKE TO GIVE THEM
A HARD TIME BUT THEY ARE
ACTUALLY REALLY GOOD AT WHAT
THEY DO.

Steve SAYS WELL, WE HOPE YOU ARE
TOO.
WE THANK YOU VERY MUCH, JAY,
FOR COMING ON TVO TONIGHT AND
HELPING TO EXPLAIN IT TO US.
THANKS SO MUCH.

The caption changes to “Forecasting conflict, theagenda.tvo.org.”

Jay smiles and answers THANK YOU.

Watch: Jay Ulfelder: Forecasting Conflict