Predicting Is Possible. These Superforecasters Know

As a matter of fact, it’s one we’ve been pondering since the start of civilization.

Art and Science of Prediction

When Philip Tetlock, a University of Pennsylvania psychologist, was asked to write “Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction,” he had no idea what he was talking about. A U.S. intelligence agency sponsored forecasting competition in 2011, and he organised and prepared a team of ordinary folks to compete.

Predicting Is Possible. These Superforecasters Know

Question such as “Will North Korea launch a new multistage rocket in the next year?” and “Will Greece leave the Eurozone in the next six months” were given numerical probability ranging from 0% to 100%. A group of amateur forecasters would face off against teams of academics and intelligence analysts who had access to sensitive information that Tetlock’s team didn’t have in a head-to-head competition.

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Even Tetlock was surprised by the results. So many people were eliminated from the competition that it was decided to only study Tetlock’s forecasters—the finest of whom were nicknamed “superforecasters”—to see what intelligence professionals could learn from them.

Since “superforecasters” like Tetlock are so good at speculating about the future, this discussion will focus on what it takes to improve one’s own forecasting skillsets and learn from those who are better at it than the rest of us.

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Last Words

There is a discussion of the inverse relationship between a person’s fame and their ability to accurately predict the future, as well as how superforecasters approach real-life questions like whether robots will replace white-collar workers and why government bureaucracies are often reluctant to adopt the tools of superforecasting.