Betty's Reviews > Future Babble: Why Expert Predictions Fail - and Why We Believe Them Anyway

Future Babble by Dan Gardner
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's review
Nov 18, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: academic, communications, ecology, environment, fate, forecasts, global-warming, economics, international, non-fiction, political, tradition
Read in November, 2010

One of the first things I've learned from this fascinating book is that the more you know, the less you know. You can not base the future on the past. The reason for this is that there are too many variables, the future is not linear. Too many things can cause hiccups in the reasoning. I learned that the economic and political experts who make forecasts for the future are rarely right, which leaves me to wonder if half of them predict something positive for the future, and the other half predict something negative, does that mean man would never progress? Nothing would ever happen? The section on randomness I thought was particularly interesting, I learned how the subconscious often overrides the conscious in making decision, but the conscious eventually gets there, it's just slower than the subconscious. In other words, the idea that is your first automatic thought is probably the right one, as in hunches or intuition. I've found that in my own life, if I am writing a letter, a story, or a comment to the newspaper, if I think about it after it's written, I start to overthink it and eventually go back to my original (if I haven't lost it, because that overthinking often messes up my clarity).

Foxes and Hedgehogs, Dan Gardner's names for the experts we place our faith on. The Foxes are the popular (right or wrong), confident, and probably entertaining; Hedgehogs, quieter, more careful and technical in their precision and declaration. Yet few predictions of the future based on the past and the present can come to pass. Hedged in wording that is not on a timeline or precise, but full of confidence and great presentation, the Foxes seem to do no wrong in their predictions, yet they are rarely right. When they are, because of their popularity, they are only remembered for their hits and their misses disappear in the human mindset. In Gardner's words, "Be simple, clear, and confident. Be extreme. Be a good storyteller. Think and talk like a hedgehog." The author has chosen a few experts from each type of thinking for his examples. In his findings, though, there appear to be too many examples of misses and too few hits, exactly his point. Surprisingly, they almost all think they were right. Somewhat like proofreading your own words, you see what you thought you wrote, they, too, see their own predictions the way they think they presented them.

What I enjoyed most about this book is the section on experiments performed to learn how people are influenced in their decisions of what or who to believe. A wide variety of these experiments will no doubt amaze the reader as to how the mind can be manipulated or simply change sides by what they perceive in the first examples. An unusual book for a mostly economic, environmental, and/or political evaluation of future predictions, but the second part of the title tells it all: Why Expert Predictions Fail - and Why We Believe Them Anyway. Based on no more information than what has been predicted by experts, I have decided, thanks to reading this book, I will no longer worry about the world in 2012.

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