The GuardianThe Guardian

The Big Idea: Can you learn to predict the future?

26 Sep 2022 · 4 min read

Editor's Note

The Guardian reports on the growing science of forecasting the future, with predictions that promise to be more reliable than those of your neighborhood astrologer.

From Nostradamus to Paul the “psychic” octopus, who supposedly foresaw the results of World Cup matches, there has been no shortage of people who argue they – or their animals – are able to predict the future. In most cases it’s easy to dismiss such claims, be they incredibly vague, biblical-sounding prophecies (as with Nostradamus) or slippery coincidences (as with Paul).

But are there any people who actually can tell us what’s going to happen? We do, after all, look to academics or well-known political pundits to help us make sense of the world. If we want to know what’s coming down the line in Ukraine, for example, we might ask someone who has studied the Russian military forces, or perhaps a foreign policy guru. For the outlook on inflation in 2023, we might go to an economist. What’s surprising is that the evidence tells us academics and commentators don’t, in fact, do particularly well.

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