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Prediction of Future Human Action

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Albeaver89 Posted: Tue, Dec 6 2011 3:29 PM

I am in college and I live with a psychology major who is claiming that you can acuratly predict future human action. I am trying to convince him otherwise but I just stumble through the argument. Can you give me some articles that will help my understnading of the subject? Or am I wrong and you can predict the future human actions of another person?

Thank you,

Allyn 

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Clayton replied on Tue, Dec 6 2011 4:16 PM

It is not the task of praxeology to investigate whether or not it is
permissible to consider as certain some of the theorems of the empirical
natural sciences. This problem is without practical importance for praxeological
considerations. At any rate, the theorems of physics and chemistry
have such a high degree of probability that we are entitled to call them certain
for all practical purposes. We can practically forecast the working of a
machine constructed according to the rules of scientific technology. But the
construction of a machine is only a part in a broader program that aims at
supplying the consumers with the machine’s products. Whether this was or
was not the most appropriate plan depends on the development of future
conditions which at the time of the plan’s execution cannot be forecast with
certainty. Thus the degree of certainty with regard to the technological
outcome of the machine’s construction, whatever it may be, does not remove
the uncertainty inherent in the whole action. Future needs and valuations,
the reaction of men to changes in conditions, future scientific and technological
knowledge, future ideologies and policies can never be foretold with
more than a greater or smaller degree of probability. Every action refers
an unknown future. It is in this sense always a risky speculation.

Ludwig von Mises, Human Action (ch. 6, sec. 1)

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If you can accurately predict human action, why isn't everyone doing that?

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Tell him to write down on a piece of paper exactly what you are going to do tomorrow down to the last detail.  This is then given to a third-party, without you having read it.  The day after tomorrow you read his prediction.

Is this person at least a multi-millionaire?  If he isn't, what's his excuse?  If he can predict exactly what people want, the exact time at which they want it, and the exact extent to which they want it, he should be able to make massive amounts of money.

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bbnet replied on Tue, Dec 6 2011 5:20 PM

I predict your psychology friend will eat, drink, sleep, and visit the bathroom within the next 24 hours.

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And we are not sent here by the politicians you drink with - L. Dube, rip

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WRONG.  He poops in the woods.

"What Stirner says is a word, a thought, a concept; what he means is no word, no thought, no concept. What he says is not what is meant, and what he means is unsayable." - Max Stirner, Stirner's Critics
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Neodoxy replied on Tue, Dec 6 2011 11:25 PM

NOTHING in human action can be predicted with certainty. What is most likely is that determined by the body (bodily needs) and that which is hinted at by the past which is even weaker. So there is some prediction which can go on but the fact is that the only prediction which has proven to always be true is that predictions about human action will not be entirely accurate.

At last those coming came and they never looked back With blinding stars in their eyes but all they saw was black...
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haymor replied on Wed, Dec 7 2011 3:00 AM

Various doctrines have been advanced to explain the relation between
mind and body. They are mere surmises without any reference to observed
facts. All that can be said with certainty is that there are relations between
mental and physiological processes. With regard to the nature and operation
of this connection we know little if anything.
Concrete value judgments and definite human actions are not open to
further analysis. We may fairly assume or believe that they are absolutely
dependent upon and conditioned by their causes. But as long as we do not
know how external facts—physical and physiological—produce in a human
mind definite thoughts and volitions resulting in concrete acts, we have to
face an insurmountable methodological dualism. In the present state of our
knowledge the fundamental statements of positivism, monism and
panphysicalism are mere metaphysical postulates devoid of any scientific
foundation and both meaningless and useless for scientific research. Reason
and experience show us two separate realms: the external world of physical,
chemical, and physiological phenomena and the internal world of thought,
feeling, valuation, and purposeful action. No bridge connects—as far as we
can see today—these two spheres. Identical external events result sometimes
in different human responses, and different external events produce sometimes
the same human response. We do not know why.
In the face of this state of affairs we cannot help withholding judgment
on the essential statements of monism and materialism. We may or may
not believe that the natural sciences will succeed one day in explaining
the production of definite ideas, judgments of value, and actions in the
same way in which they explain the production of a chemical compound
as the necessary and unavoidable outcome of a certain combination of
elements. In the meantime we are bound to acquiesce in a methodological
dualism.

Human Action - Ludwig von Mises

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Of course you can. Some people make a lot of money doing it. They predict correctly all kinds of things.

George Owell wrote a whole book, 1984, which came true in every detail [but for one, which my blog discusses].

All of economics, Austrian and otherwise, is ultimately trying to predict future human actions.

Etc etc and so forth.

 

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haymor replied on Fri, Dec 9 2011 4:52 AM

The purpose of austrian economics is precisely the opposite, that is to emphasize the fact that human action can't be predicted. It makes of the action axiom its ultimate foundation. For austrians, economics are a set of propositions that define the formal structure of action and its implications. Of course economics is a tool for the interpretation of history and for speculation (predict future human needs), but such activities, however fruitfull and well paid they are (in the form of entrepeneur benefits) do not fall in the realm of scientific knowledge. In this sense, history does not refute nor demonstrate any of the propositions of economic science.

Orwell's novel does not make of him an excellent economist nor being Buffet or Gates does. They are just extremely talented people with the right intutition who make less wrong decisions than the rest of us.

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Clayton replied on Fri, Dec 9 2011 9:27 AM

+1 Haymor

 

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Or am I wrong and you can predict the future human actions of another person?

I predict that your roommate will go to grad school after getting his bachelor's, and then end up becoming a waiter at Applebees.

 

they said we would have an unfair fun advantage

"enough about human rights. what about whale rights?" -moondog
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Allyn,

My question to your roommate would be this: Just how accurately?

The keyboard is mightier than the gun.

Non parit potestas ipsius auctoritatem.

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Albeaver89 replied on Mon, Dec 12 2011 11:17 AM

He says accurate is 95% and upwords. He is using psycological studies as his examples.

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Wheylous replied on Mon, Dec 12 2011 5:02 PM

This is one of the reasons that libertarian society might actually not work out. There are so many people who simply have no grasp of reality that charitable contributions to them would surely need to be in the billions devil

 

Edit: Ah, fine. Can we see said studies?

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cporter replied on Mon, Dec 12 2011 5:30 PM

Albeaver89:
He says accurate is 95% and upwords. He is using psycological studies as his examples.

Given enough input information you can probably find correlations between situations and people's immediate actions. I would like to see these studies.

To say that you can sit someone in a controlled trial, provide extensive input information and put them in a situations with an obvious, immediate response is a far cry from saying all human action is predictable with little or no prior knowledge out to an unknown time horizon.

Your friend is probably making claims those studies don't support at all.

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For example: He said that Milgram experiment shows that (insert percent here) of people will, in fact, do whatever the authority tells them. (Sorry I forget the number he used)

He also uses the Stanford prison experiment; to show that people will always take on the role they are given.

Those the his two big ones, he sometimes says an obscure one, but always falls back to these has major examples of how psychologists can predict what people will do.

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"It makes of the action axiom its ultimate foundation."

What do you mean by 'action axiom'?

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cporter replied on Tue, Dec 13 2011 2:53 PM

Albeaver89:
For example: He said that Milgram experiment shows that (insert percent here) of people will, in fact, do whatever the authority tells them. (Sorry I forget the number he used)

He also uses the Stanford prison experiment; to show that people will always take on the role they are given.

Those the his two big ones, he sometimes says an obscure one, but always falls back to these has major examples of how psychologists can predict what people will do.

That's what I suspected. If his claims are what you have posted then he is making statements the studies in question do not support.

The Stanford prison experiment is a joke. It may be one of the most ill-concieved, least scientific experiments I've ever heard of. To base any claim off of that experiment is too much. The Milgram trials are much better put together, but still don't back up what he is saying.

As I said, if you put people in specific, controlled scenarios with sufficient input information then you can get reasonably specific results for immediate actions. To then say that we can predict, with 95% confidence, all human action with limited information and no definite time horizon does not follow from this.

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It is possible to predict future human action. If businesses could not predict future human action, then they would never know if the product that they are going to produce would be viable. I can tell you with a certainty that if Apple make another Iphone, that it will sell more than a million devices within the first day or less. Is that not predicting future human action? Where I think your room mate might be wrong is when he presumes his own accuracy rates. If he is talking about a 95% accuracy rate when people have to decide between two choices and the examiner has done research on the psychology of the participants, ie a controlled environment, then I might allow it. But when making specific future predictions about one person or entire societies or markets, no one would ever have 95% accuracy. Maybe he thinks he is Nostradamus, oh a psychologist you say? that explains it.

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Wheylous replied on Tue, Dec 13 2011 4:03 PM

What do you mean by 'action axiom'?

http://mises.org/daily/5014 (Read the section where it describes it)

As to your friend, I suggest you back away slowly and then run.

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haymor replied on Tue, Dec 13 2011 4:36 PM

"The starting point of all praxeological thinking is not arbitrarily chosen axioms, but a self-evident proposition, fully, clearly and necessarily present in every human mind. An unbridgeable gulf separates those animals in whose minds this cognition is present from those in whose minds it is not fully and clearly present. Only to the former is the appellation man accorded. The characteristic feature of man is precisely that he consciously acts. Man is Homo agens, the acting animal. All—apart from zoology—that has ever been scientifically stated to distinguish man from nonhuman mammals is implied in the proposition: man acts. To act means: to strive after ends, that is, to choose a goal and to resort to means in order to attain the goal sought.

[..]

The starting point of praxeology is a self-evident truth, the cognition of action, that is, the cognition of the fact that there is such a thing as consciously aiming at ends."

Ludwig Von Mises - The Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science

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I've seen dogs acting, and it;s not just instinct. They figured ou on their own how to open door knobs and quickly butt their heads on the door to get in before it twists back. they have a clear goal in mind, getting into the room, and have reasoned out how to do it.

I understand monkeys are even smarter. Not to mention all the experiments with mice.

So it seems to me all those animals act, too. Why does Mises say it's onl humans?

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Wheylous replied on Tue, Dec 13 2011 4:45 PM

He's Racist!

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