Ten Commandments to Help You Better Predict the Future

Whether you realize it or not, we all spend a lot of time predicting the future. Should you buy a home? Going to college? Marry? Buying a new gadget? We tend to be very poor at making these predictions, but Freakonomics describes some mental tricks that will help you do better.

Freakonomics speaks specifically of so-called ” super- forecasters” who spend their days predicting big, important world events, but what makes them good at these predictions can be easily applied on a more personal level. In a conversation with Philip Tetlock, they identify 10 commandments:

1: “Triage. Focus on issues where your hard work can pay off. ” Pretty reasonable.

2: “Break down seemingly intractable problems into subtasks that can be solved.” No problem.

3: “Find the right balance between inside and outside views.”

4: “Find the right balance between overreacting and overreacting to evidence.”

5: “Look for conflicting causal forces at work in every problem.” This is where your homework comes in handy.

6: “Seek to discern as many degrees of doubt as the problem allows, but no more.” Ok, this sounds complicated.

7: “Find the right balance between underconfidence and overconfidence, between caution and decisiveness.”

8: Look for the mistakes behind your mistakes, but beware of the rear-view bias of the rearview mirror. Do you get it? Here, let me read it again: “Look for the mistakes behind your mistakes, but beware of bias in the rearview mirror retrospective.”

9: “Bring out the best in others and let others show the best in you.” Not much of a Washington DC concept, but what the heck.

10: “Get hold of the bug-balancing bike.” What? It needs a little more explanation … “Just like you cannot learn to ride a bike by reading a physics textbook,” writes Tetlock, “you cannot become a super predictor by reading textbooks. Learning requires action with good feedback that leaves no ambiguity as to whether you succeed … or … fail. ” Now, if keeping these commandments seems like a lot of work – well, that’s the point.

It’s actually just a combination of self-awareness and an open mind , but easier said than done. Check out the full podcast on Freakonomics to learn about all of these commandments.

How to Be Less Terrible in Predicting the Future | Freakonomics


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