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April 02, 2009

Mass Incidents in China and the United States and Predicting Results

China has the government statistic of mass incidents.

China's Public Security Ministry reported 87,000 mass incidents in 2005, up 6.6 per cent over the number in 2004, and 50 per cent over the 2003 figure. The ministry has not released the latest figures.

Mass incidents - the Chinese government's term for riots, demonstrations and protests - should not be mistaken for attempts to "rebel against or overthrow the government", said Dr Wang Erping of the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Psychology.


The United States, Europe and other places also have mass protests. Here is a google map of Tea party tax protests. (H/T Instapundit and Freedomworks.org)

View Larger Map

UPDATE: Bruce Bueno de Mesquita's Predictions on Iran from Feb 2009.
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Just counting the number of incidents some of which are the gathering of a handful of people while another could be 20,000 people burning things is not especially meaningful.

When do protests lead to change within the current system and when does the system get changed ? Are simple metrics able to give effective indications ?

More analysis of the volume of people, their resources and goals and profiles and detailed analysis of movement leaders and actors in the establishment seems required to have a useful prediction of whether movements will be effective and to what degree.

The methodology of mathematician Bruce Bueno de Mesquita seems to be the current state of the art

In fact, the professor says that a computer model he built and has perfected over the last 25 years can predict the outcome of virtually any international conflict, provided the basic input is accurate. What’s more, his predictions are alarmingly specific. His fans include at least one current presidential hopeful, a gaggle of Fortune 500 companies, the CIA, and the Department of Defense. Naturally, there is also no shortage of people less fond of his work. “Some people think Bruce is the most brilliant foreign policy analyst there is,” says one colleague. “Others think he’s a quack.”

Bueno de Mesquita has made a slew of uncannily accurate predictions—more than 2,000, on subjects ranging from the terrorist threat to America to the peace process in Northern Ireland—that would seem to prove him right.

He is the chairman of New York University’s Department of Politics, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford, and the author of many weighty academic tomes.

To verify the accuracy of his model, the CIA set up a kind of forecasting face-off that pit predictions from his model against those of Langley’s more traditional in-house intelligence analysts and area specialists. “We tested Bueno de Mesquita’s model on scores of issues that were conducted in real time—that is, the forecasts were made before the events actually happened,” says Stanley Feder, a former high-level CIA analyst. “We found the model to be accurate 90 percent of the time,” he wrote. Another study evaluating Bueno de Mesquita’s real-time forecasts of 21 policy decisions in the European community concluded that “the probability that the predicted outcome was what indeed occurred was an astounding 97 percent.” What’s more, Bueno de Mesquita’s forecasts were much more detailed than those of the more traditional analysts. “The real issue is the specificity of the accuracy,” says Feder. “We found that DI (Directorate of National Intelligence) analyses, even when they were right, were vague compared to the model’s forecasts. To use an archery metaphor, if you hit the target, that’s great. But if you hit the bull’s eye—that’s amazing.”

How does Bueno de Mesquita do this? With mathematics. “You start with a set of assumptions, as you do with anything, but you do it in a formal, mathematical way,” he says. “You break them down as equations and work from there to see what follows logically from those assumptions.” The assumptions he’s talking about concern each actor’s motives. You configure those motives into equations that are, essentially, statements of logic based on a predictive theory of how people with those motives will behave. From there, you start building your mathematical model. You determine whether the predictive theory holds true by plugging in data, which are numbers derived from scales of preferences that you ascribe to each actor based on the various choices they face.

A sample of Bruce Bueno de Mesquita’s wilder—and most accurate—predictions:

Forecasted the second Intifada and the death of the Mideast peace process, two years before it happened.

Defied Russia specialists by predicting who would succeed Brezhnev. “The model identified Andropov, who nobody at the time even considered a possibility,” he says.

Predicted that Daniel Ortega and the Sandanistas would be voted out of office in Nicaragua, two years before it happened.

Four months before Tiananmen Square, said China’s hardliners would crack down harshly on dissidents.

Predicted France’s hair’s-breadth passage of the European Union’s Maastricht Treaty.

Predicted the exact implementation of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement between Britain and the IRA.

Predicted China’s reclaiming of Hong Kong and the exact manner the handover would take place, 12 years before it happened.


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