McClelland & Stewart
October 12, 2010
In 2008, is the price of oil surged above $140 a barrel, experts said it would soon hit $200; a few months later it plunged to $30. In 1967, they said the USSR would have one of the world’s fastest-growing economies in the year 2000; in 2000, the USSR did not exist. In 1911, it was pronounced that there would be no more wars in Europe; we all know how that turned out. Let’s face it: experts are about as accurate as dart-throwing monkeys. And yet every day, we ask them to predict the future – everything from the weather to the likelihood of catastrophic terrorist attack. Future Babble is the first book to examine this phenomenon, showing why our brains yearn for certainty about the future, why we are attracted to those who predict it confidently, and why it’s so easy for us to ignore the trail of outrageously wrong forecasts.
In this fast-based, example-packed, sometimes darkly hilarious book, bestselling author Dan Gardner shows how seminal research by University of California professor Philip Tetlock proved that pundits who are more famous are less accurate – and the average expert is no more accurate than a flipped coin. Gardner also draws on current research in cognitive psychology, political science, and behavioral economics to discover something quite reassuring: The future is always uncertain, but the end is not always near.
Dan Gardner is a columnist and investigative journalist with the Ottawa Citizen. He is the author of Risk: The Science and Politics of Fear, which has been published in eleven countries in seven languages, and which won the 2008 Canadian Science Writers’ Association Science and Society Journalism Award. Gardner lives in Ottawa with his wife and three children.