Re: [asa] Trees don't lie

From: Glenn Morton <>
Date: Sun Mar 22 2009 - 22:56:42 EDT

Hi George,

> Again you of course know a lot more about oil production than I. But when
> I take a quick look at a discussion of Hubbert's math at
> I
> see a slightly wavy curve of P/Q vs Q and the phrase "Let us fit a
> straight line to this set of dots from 1958 on ..." . Now I understand
> that Hubbert's original analysis was more complex but what's being done
> here looks like making the simplest - linear - mathematical description of
> what is really a pretty complex phenomenon in order to predict, not the
> precise future state of the system but one crucial feature of particular
> interest. I would be very surprised if the real dynamics of oil
> production - if we could have a precise mathematical description - is
> really describable with strictly linear equations. If it is, please
> enlighten my ignorance by showing me that it is or referring me to an
> appropriate source.
I will absolutely grant that you know more math than I. But, Hubbert's
equation works and it is linear. The situation in oil production is complex
only because of political decisions made by country leaders to restrict
production or open the taps. Hubbert predicted a world peak oil in 1995.
The only reason that that prediction didn't happen was because in the late
1970s and early 1980s, the world became incredibly more energy efficient due
to the high prices of oil. But all that did was push the peak back about
10-15 years. I think we have peaked because of the current down turn. We
will never catch up again with the decline because we are not drilling as
much now. we were barely keeping up with production when we were drilling
all out. Now that we aren't, world oil supply, defined as the amount of oil
coming to market per day will decline rather quickly. Buckle your belts.

> Similarly for the other systems I mentioned. What is the justification
> for saying that the dynamics of a presidential election or a MLB season
> are linear? To the extent that the term is meaningful, I suspect that the
> dynamics of all complex systems involving human beings are "nonlinear." A
> group of 50 Indians confronting 50 Pakistanis isn't just 50 times a 1 on 1
> meeting between an Indian and a Pakistani.

I didn't say that the presidential election was linear.

> In discussing elections it's significant that you put "equation" in
> quotes - and never actually write down any. That's because you don't have
> any. You have relationships that to some extent are semi-quantitative but
> you don't have A = B relationships. & unless you do, the terms "linear" &
> "nonlinear" can be used only in the loose (but I hope meaningful) way I
> did in the previous paragraph. & since you don't have real equations, the
> concepts of chaos theory can also be applied only in a loose way - which
> is not to say that they might not be of some value if you're careful.

George, those are the kinds of systems that Tetlock studied--those lacking
the kinds of equations you seem to want. That is why experts aren't any

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Received on Sun Mar 22 22:57:03 2009

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