Book Club – Super Forecasting: The Art and Science of Predicting

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The title makes a big promise, but this book delivers. The book starts with examples through history of “experts” who were followed, even when evidence they were wrong was obvious. Healthcare is full of these examples, and the authors cite a few.

In 2005, Phillip Tetlock published a very large 20-year study measuring the accuracy of experts’ predictions on questions of foreign affairs, the economy, politics, and other important issues. The bottom line is that the experts were no better than a “chimp throwing darts.“ Unfortunately, they were rarely held accountable for their failures.

So he set about figuring out what does make for good predictors – extremely good ones. Super Forecasting: The Art and Science of Predicting, by the same Phillip Tetlock and Dan Gardner,  the result of another massive decades-long study, lays out what they found.

First, we can all be better forecasters. Fancy degrees and super high IQs are not necessary.

It’s about curiosity, the ability/even eagerness to be wrong, knowing your own biases, break the question into parts you can answer or estimate,  revise often as you get new information, work well with others, be comfortable with numbers, and some decent research skills.

It’s a fascinating book but even more – it’s helpful. Opinions given with lots of confidence doesn’t mean you can trust them. And we can all improve.