Reviewed by Sarah Ell
Random House, RRP NZ$40
None of us can see the future – if we could, we wouldn’t have to guess when the Auckland property market is going to crash, or which shares are going to make the biggest gains over time. Come to think of it, we could just buy a guaranteed-to-win Lotto ticket every week and never have to make another financial decision…
This is just a fantasy. But researchers have discovered some people among us – and they don’t necessarily have a genius IQ, nor are they vested with some superpower – have an above-average chance of predicting what will happen next.
American psychologist Philip Tetlock has studied why some people are better than others at predicting future events. Among them are those whose hit rate is so great Tetlock has dubbed them ‘superforecasters’.
This book outlines the story behind Tetlock’s Good Judgment Project and reveals the facets that make some people particularly suited to picking what is most likely to happen next.
And it’s not who you might think. For all the television pundits spouting their theories and predictions, it’s those people who are quietly calculating probabilities and unwrapping potential scenarios – including using a technique called ‘Fermi-ising’ – who are more likely to be correct. In fact, Tetlock’s studies have shown an inverse relationship between how famous someone is and their likely ability to forecast accurately.
Its sometimes complex and challenging subject matter means you’ll find yourself thinking a lot as you read it. Yet Superforecasting is both easy to read and highly absorbing, thanks to the journalistic input of co-author Dan Gardner.
The book shares ways to improve our own faculties. And, the good news is, Tetlock believes anyone of reasonable intelligence, with an interest in the world around them, has the ability to improve their forecasting skills.
Want to give it a crack yourself? Check out www.goodjudgment.com for current questions and challenges and join the conversation.