What if we could anticipate well in advance the outcome of an election or the impact of a natural disaster? Psychologist Philip E. Tetlock and journalist Dan Gardner explore how well we can foretell the future in their provocative new book Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction (Crown, 2015; 352 pages).
According to Tetlock, most people are pretty bad at judging future events. But decades of research have led him to recognize special individuals he calls “superforecasters.” They tend to be open to new ideas, flexible thinkers and okay with getting things wrong. The good news, he reveals, is that it may be possible for everyone to improve their forecasting prowess: ultimately the art of prediction may be less about getting the right answer and more about understanding why that answer is right or wrong.
But how can we make good predictions if our reasoning skills are inherently flawed? In Phishing for Phools: The Economics of Manipulation and Deception (Princeton University Press, 2015; 288 pages), Nobel Prize–winning economists George A. Akerlof and Robert J. Shiller argue that we frequently make decisions that are not in our best interests. They define “phishing” as the ability to artificially lure and deceive others and “phools” as victims of phishing. In psychological terms, phools come in two flavors: psychological phools fail to follow common sense, whereas informational ones misinterpret reality and act on that misinformation. Using compelling examples of flawed decision making from advertising, health care and personal finances, the authors identify our rational weak spots and arm readers with the ability to resist manipulation.