There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.
– Ken Olson in 1977 when he was president and founder of Digital Equipment Corp — a pioneering computer company that no longer exists
University of California political psychologist Philip Tetlock spent two decades asking foreign policy experts to make predictions about world events, and then tracking their accuracy. In that time, he has assembled a database of more than 80,000 individual predictions by 284 experts. The result: Expertise and experience made very little difference (he published his findings in his book, Expert Political Judgment). Experts on the whole barely outperform a coin toss in predicting the future … The best experts … can get their success rate up to nearly 60 percent — better than ‘heads or tails,’ but not by much.
– “A talk with Philip Tetlock: Expertise is overrated,” Rick Heller, The Boston Globe
“The accuracy of an expert’s predictions actually has an inverse relationship to his or her self-confidence, renown, and, beyond a certain point, depth of knowledge. People who follow current events by reading the papers and newsmagazines regularly can guess what is likely to happen about as accurately as the specialists whom the papers quote. Our system of expertise is completely inside out: it rewards bad judgments over good ones.
– “Everybody’s An Expert: Putting predictions to the test,” Louis Menand, The New Yorker
Rail travel at high speeds is not possible because passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia.
– Dionysius Lardner, Professor of Natural Philosophy and Astronomy at University College, London, and author of The Steam Engine Explained and Illustrated (1830)
Trouble is, despite their efforts, forecasters aren’t particularly accurate and their track record isn’t improving, particularly when it comes to predicting recessions. ‘They tend to make the same forecasting mistakes,’ said Merv Daub, professor emeritus at Queen’s University’s business school. ‘Much of the process relies on guessing what will happen to external factors such as the global economic and political environment,’ said Daub, who has extensively researched the accuracy of forecasting. ‘How the hell do you forecast these things?’ he said. ‘Forecasters are not witches. They don’t possess some mythical way of foreseeing the future.’
– “The Prophets of Profit,” Steven Theobald reporting on The Toronto Star’s analysis of 20 years of mostly inaccurate annual forecasts
Victor Zarnowitz, a professor at the University of Chicago and one of the leading trackers of economic forecasting accuracy, analyzed the error rates for six prominent economic forecasters — the big three plus GE, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, and the National Bureau of Economic Research — in predicting real gross national product (GNP) growth and inflation … He found that of the forty-eight predictions made by the economists, forty-six missed the turning points in the economy … Roy A. Batchelor and Pami Dua, professors at City University in London and the University of Connecticut, respectively… In analyzing the track records of thirty-two forecasters, they found almost no differences in forecast accuracy among the different economic schools of thought… “The Economist” was right to declare that economic forecasters ‘are worse than useless: they can do actual long-term damage to the economy.’
– The Fortune Sellers: The Big Business of Buying and Selling Predictions, William A. Sherden