Why Expert Predictions Are Next to Worthless, and You Can Do Better
By Dan Gardner
Dutton Adult, Hardcover, 9780525952053, 320pp.
Publication Date: March 17, 2011
In 2008, experts predicted gas would hit $20 a gallon; it peaked at $4.10. In 1967, they said the USSR would be the world's fastest-growing economy by 2000; by 2000, the USSR no longer existed. In 1908, it was pronounced that there would be no more wars in Europe; we all know how that turned out. Face it, experts are about as accurate as dart- throwing monkeys. And yet every day we ask them to predict the future- everything from the weather to the likelihood of a terrorist attack. "Future Babble" is the first book to examine this phenomenon, showing why our brains yearn for certainty about the future, why we are attracted to those who predict it confidently, and why it's so easy for us to ignore the trail of outrageously wrong forecasts.
In this fast-paced, example-packed, sometimes darkly hilarious book, journalist Dan Gardner shows how seminal research by UC Berkeley professor Philip Tetlock proved that the more famous a pundit is, the more likely he is to be right about as often as a stopped watch. Gardner also draws on current research in cognitive psychology, political science, and behavioral economics to discover something quite reassuring: The future is always uncertain, but the end is not always near.
"Future Babble is genuinely arresting... required reading for journalists, politicians, academics and anyone who listens to them."
-Steven Pinker, Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, author of How the Mind Works and The Stuff of Thought
"Well-researched, well-reasoned, and engagingly written. I'm not making any predictions, but we can only hope that this brilliant book will shock the human race, and particularly the chattering expert class, into a condition of humility about proclamations about the future."
-John Mueller, author of Overblown and Political Scientist, Ohio State University
"As Yogi Berra observed, 'it's tough to make predictions, especially about the future.' In this brilliant and engaging book, Dan Gardner shows us how tough forecasting really is, and how easy it is to be convinced otherwise by a confident expert with a good story. This is must reading for anyone who cares about the future."
-Paul Slovic, Professor of Psychology, University of Oregon
"If you are paying a lot of money for forecasting services-be they crystal ball gazers or math modelers or something in between-put your orders on hold until you have had a chance to read this book-a rare mix of superb scholarship and zesty prose. You may want to cancel, or at least re-negotiate the price. For the rest of us who are just addicted to what experts are telling us everyday in every kind of media about what the future holds, Future Babble will show you how to be a bit smarter than what you usually hear."
-Philip Tetlock, author of Expert Political Judgement and Mitchell Professor of Organizational Behavior, Hass School of Business, University of California