, Volume 93, Number 2

Associate Fellow, Asia Programme and Russia and Eurasia Programme
A series of failed predictions, and the erosion of international order, augur an age of uncertainty. Rapid technological change is also fuelling anxiety about the ‘sociomaterial’ future of collective life. Demand for forecasting is now unprecedented. But the prediction industry has a poor record. Perverse incentives exacerbate the problem: the biggest pundits make the worst predictions. Some also worry that this industry legitimizes the preferred future of powerful interests. Forecasting should be a rigorous professional activity that is held to account, reviews its record and revises its practices. Complexity and chaos impose limits on prediction, but not decisive ones. Big data can play a big role, but needs the discipline of human judgement rich in history and detail. Organizations should create the incentives and culture that foster expert predictions which leaders listen to. This is hard, but good precedents exist. The costs of not doing so are demonstrably high.

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