Peering into the Future

What will the future hold? We all want to know. But as the late Yogi Berra famously said, “It’s difficult to make predictions, especially about the future.”

What about the future? On the subject of looking at the future, I suspect you all know there is a cottage industry of people who call themselves “futurists” and we all likely have our own favorite people we follow – either in fact or in fiction – who seem to have a knack of being right about at least some of their predictions. As to the ones who aren’t right very often, they tend to drop off our lists. And speaking of “futurists,” I think that term is going a bit out of vogue as some of the conferences and media I follow now feature “thought leaders” as a primary draw.

In the event Yogi isn’t the person you turn to for philosophical insights, here is what Walter Frick had to say in this month’s Harvard Business Review about the art and science of looking at the future. He talked about the new book by Phillip Tetlock and Dan Gardner, Superforcasting: The Art and Science of Prediction.

Forecasting is difficult. Still, accurate predictions are essential to good decision making in every realm of life. We are all forecasters. When we think about changing jobs, getting married, buying a home, making an investment, launching a product, or retiring, we decide based on how we expect the future to unfold.

And not to put too fine a point on it (and I hasten to add I’m not Tetlock and Gardner’s literary agent) in Sunday’s New York Times Book Review, Leonard Mlodinow reviewed both Richard Nisbett’s Mindware: Tools for Smart Thinking and Superforcasting: The Art and Science of Prediction and found the arguments made by Nisbett (who Malcom Gladwell called “the most influential thinker in my life) lacking, while those made by Tetlock and Gardner compelling.

Stay tuned to this website as we’ll look to the future downstream.