How to make better predictions

Certainty is not always possible.

by Jeremy Hazlehurst

Humans have always wanted to predict the future and through history have believed all sorts of mystical oddballs who claimed that they could: Nostradamus, Mother Shipton, the Oracle at Delphi, druids rummaging through the innards of slaughtered goats, fortune tellers with tarot cards or tea leaves. It would be nice to believe that these days we can do better.

According to Professor Philip Tetlock, author of Superforecasting, several techniques can improve your predictions. First, understand your problem. He differentiates between “clockwork” and “cloud-like” problems. 

Clockwork ones are problems that are solvable if you have enough information, like what time I will get to Edinburgh if I set off now, or where the balls on a pool table will end up if I smash the cue ball hard into the pack. With such problems, rules of thumb can often get you surprisingly good predictions pretty quickly.

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