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Air Time: Tech Market Research

I have an observation about the effectiveness of meteorologists in upstate New York: Their accuracy drops by about 50 percent each day into their long-term forecasts. In a perversion of this realization, I find myself hoping the Monday forecast calls for rain the following weekend, as it instills confidence in a nice weekend at the lake.

My jaded perspective on weather forecasting similarly infects my opinion of industry market projections, which often do far more harm than good by creating a false sense of reality and stimulating investment in bad ideas. I've come to trust market research experts' ability to tell me who sold what for how much last year and, to a lesser extent, who will sell what for how much in the coming year. After that, it could be sun--or it could be rain.

Your TV meteorologists, if they're any good, know just how tenuous those long-term forecasts are, but proclaim them anyway, because the boss wants eyeballs. Although largely irrational, people are attracted to long-term forecasts because they're the most tangible contemporary effort to predict events that affect us all.