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33 Fascinating Quotes from Superforecasting

Superforecasting is based on the art and science of prediction. Written by Philip Tetlock, ‘Superforecasting’ covers years of research on how to effectively predict the future of business, politics, and everyday life. Here is a look at some of the best quotes from Superforecasting to remember.

“Accurate forecasts may help do that sometimes, and when they do accuracy is welcome, but it is pushed aside if that’s what the pursuit of power requires.”

“All models are wrong, the statistician George Box observed, but some are useful.”

“All who drink of this treatment recover in a short time, except those whom it does not help, who all die, he wrote. It is obvious, therefore, that it fails only in incurable cases.”

“Be careful about making assumptions of expertise, ask experts if you can find them, reexamine your assumptions from time to time.”

“Churchill sent Keynes a cable reading, ‘Am coming around to your point of view.’ His Lordship replied, ‘Sorry to hear it. Have started to change my mind.’ ”

“Consensus is not always good; disagreement not always bad. If you do happen to agree, don’t take that agreement—in itself—as proof that you are right. Never stop doubting.”

“For scientists, not knowing is exciting. It’s an opportunity to discover; the more that is unknown, the greater the opportunity.”

“Forecasters who can’t cope with the dissonance risk making the most serious possible forecasting error in a conflict: underestimating your opponent.”

“Forecasters who see illusory correlations and assume that moral and cognitive weakness run together will fail when we need them most.”

“Fuzzy thinking can never be proven wrong. And only when we are proven wrong so clearly that we can no longer deny it to ourselves will we adjust our mental models of the world—producing a clearer picture of reality. Forecast, measure, revise: it is the surest path to seeing better.”

“I’d rather be a bookie than a goddamn poet, was his legendary response.”

“If you have to plan for a future beyond the forecasting horizon, plan for surprise. That means, as Danzig advises, planning for adaptability and resilience.”

“In one of history’s great ironies, scientists today know vastly more than their colleagues a century ago, and possess vastly more data-crunching power, but they are much less confident in the prospects for perfect predictability.”

“It follows that the goal of forecasting is not to see what’s coming. It is to advance the interests of the forecaster and the forecaster’s tribe.”

“It is wise to take admissions of uncertainty seriously, Daniel Kahneman noted, but declarations of high confidence mainly tell you that an individual has constructed a coherent story in his mind, not necessarily that the story is true.”

“It was the absence of doubt—and scientific rigor—that made medicine unscientific and caused it to stagnate for so long.”

“It’s a rare day when a journalist says, The market rose today for any one of a hundred different reasons, or a mix of them, so no one knows.”

“It’s very hard to master and if you’re not learning all the time, you will fail. That being said, humility in the face of the game is extremely different than humility in the face of your opponents.”

“Mauboussin notes that slow regression is more often seen in activities dominated by skill, while faster regression is more associated with chance.”

“Natural as such thinking may be, it is problematic. Lay out the tangled chain of reasoning in a straight line and you see this: The probability that I would meet the love of my life was tiny. But it happened. So it was meant to be. Therefore the probability that it would happen was 100%. This is beyond dubious. It’s incoherent. Logic and psycho-logic are in tension.”

“Scientist and science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke famously observed, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

“So finding meaning in events is positively correlated with well-being but negatively correlated with foresight. That sets up a depressing possibility: Is misery the price of accuracy?”

“Success can lead to acclaim that can undermine the habits of mind that produced the success.”

“The difference between heavyweights and amateurs, she said, is that the heavyweights know the difference between a 60⁄40 bet and a 40⁄60 bet.”

“The facts change, I change my mind.”

“The fundamental message: think. If necessary, discuss your orders. Even criticize them. And if you absolutely must—and you better have a good reason—disobey them.”

“The one undeniable talent that talking heads have is their skill at telling a compelling story with conviction, and that is enough. Many have become wealthy peddling forecasting of untested value to corporate executives, government officials, and ordinary people who would never think of swallowing medicine of unknown efficacy and safety but who routinely pay for forecasts that are as dubious as elixirs sold from the back of a wagon.”

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function, F. Scott Fitzgerald”

“Then came the waiting, a test of patience for even the tenured.”

“There is no divinely mandated link between morality and competence.”

“There’s also the premortem, in which the team is told to assume a course of action has failed and to explain why—which makes team members feel safe to express doubts they may have about the leader’s plan. But the superteams did not start with leaders and norms, which created other challenges.”

“We don’t want intelligence analysts to assume jihadist groups must be inept or that vicious regimes can’t be creatively vicious.”

“We showed them how to tactfully dissect the vague claims people often make. Suppose someone says, Unfortunately, the popularity of soccer, the world’s favorite pastime, is starting to decline. You suspect he is wrong. How do you question the claim? Don’t even think of taking a personal shot like You’re silly. That only adds heat, not light. I don’t think so only expresses disagreement without delving into why you disagree. What do you mean? lowers the emotional temperature with a question but it’s much too vague. Zero in. You might say, What do you mean by ‘pastime’? or What evidence is there that soccer’s popularity is declining? Over what time frame? The answers to these precise questions won’t settle the matter, but they will reveal the thinking behind the conclusion so it can be probed and tested.”

Philip Tetlock presents his lecture on predicting the future for the last three decades and how his method of superforecasting offers a new approach to gauge the future of likelihood of events.

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