History often isn’t kind to those who go on the record making predictions. Albert Einstein once said that nuclear energy would never be a thing, while Margaret Thatcher predicted that a woman would never be prime minister in her lifetime. And remember the record executive who said the Beatles had no future in show business?
People are often spectacularly bad at forecasting the future. But they don’t have to be, says Philip Tetlock, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania who has spent decades studying how people make predictions. In a new book, “Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction,” which he co-wrote with journalist Dan Gardner, Tetlock argues that almost anyone can learn to peer into the future.
Earlier in his career, Tetlock conducted a famous 20-year study in which he had a group of experts make a total of around 28,000 predictions about politics, war, economics and other topics over a timeline of one to 10 years. After scoring all of their predictions against what actually happened, Tetlock’s takeaway was that experts were only about as effective at predicting the future as dart-throwing chimpanzees.