Future Babble

Future Babble

Why Expert Predictions Fail-- and Why We Believe Them Anyway

Book - 2010
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Random House, Inc.
In 2008, as the price of oil surged above $140 a barrel, experts said it would soon hit $200; a few months later it plunged to $30. In 1967, they said the USSR would have one of the fastest-growing economies in the year 2000; in 2000, the USSR did not exist. In 1911, 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 catastrophic 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 pundits who are more famous are less accurate — and the average expert is no more accurate than a flipped coin. 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.

Publisher: Toronto : McClelland & Stewart, c2010
ISBN: 9780771035197
Branch Call Number: 153.4 GAR
Characteristics: xi, 305 p. ;,24 cm.

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stewstealth
Apr 07, 2016

An erudite look at the near complete failure of predicting the future. The book examines the psychology of those attempting it and the rest who readily lap it up though the rate of accuracy by those consistently making the predictions is laughable. Specifically the pundits trotted out by news and other talking heads on TV, radio and written commentary. An excellent book that should be read by all.

j
JimR
Oct 07, 2011

I wanted to read this book, but the print is so small that I had to give up.

Guess I will have to wait for the large print version to come out.

I have read lots of "non-large" print, as well as large print, books, but this one was impossible.

j
jmikesmith
Aug 18, 2011

A follow-up to his book on the psychology of risk, Dan Gardner tackles a related subject: predicting the future (after all, risk management is about deciding what to do when you're not sure how the future will turn out). It turns out that most so-called experts are only right about future developments in their fields about half the time, and yet we continue to ask them for their predictions and to believe them. And the more certain they are, the less accurate and the more respected they are!

Gardner examines the psychological reasons behind this. It basically boils down to subconscious needs to remove uncertainty from our lives and assuming the future will be like the present, only more so. The writing is clear and engaging, although there is some repetition of the major points and a slightly condescending tone (both problems that I found in his previous book, as well). Still, the work is well researched and presented in a non-technical way that should be accessible to everyone. It's a good tonic for those of us hyped on predictions about peak oil, global warming, flu epidemics, and all the other things we worry about.

g
gestr
Mar 25, 2011

It is easier to predict the weather than the future. Listening to experts predicting the future is like watching comedy or reading fiction. Book reveals some of our thinking processes.

g
guybrary
Mar 01, 2011

An excellent rebuttal to all those "experts" who tell us what's going to happen next.

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