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Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction (2015)

by Philip E. Tetlock

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
An interesting read on the general art and science of forecasting and the mindset that goes into being a good forecasting. It is well-written and an informative take on the psychology, citing sources and the topics thoroughly researched. The author's work with the Good Judgement Project for the starting point for some of the book's concepts, pairing well with other resources to fully explore the topic. ( )
  redsauce | Jun 6, 2017 |
An informative look at the art of predicting the future, Superforecasting talks about inherent biases and how we can mitigate them to become better at forecasting future events. This book draws on the work behind "Thinking Fast and Slow", which would make a great companion read. ( )
  LynnB | Feb 8, 2017 |
Superforcasting has so much information on the art of predicting the future and why some experts are really good at it. Very well written and so easy to read. If you are into researching the future this is a good book to read, it is full of real examples. Really enjoyed reading this. ( )
  mware1961 | Jan 20, 2017 |
Tetlock begins by talking about forecasts in general and why the "experts" are so bad at it. Then he moves on to the research he has done on determining whether or not forecasts are reliable by following up on them to see how they worked out. Many were so vague that one really can't decide if they were true or not. Eventually this led to the Good Judgment Project where ordinary people were given fairly specific questions of the type "Will X happen sometime in the next six months?" and their results evaluated over time. Part of the research was to figure out why some of these participants were so much better than the experts at making their forecasts. then he invites the reader to check out the Project website and join in.

The book was quite readable and the stories told were interesting. It also made me think about all the predictions littering the daily news and I'm much more suspicious of them than I was before. I never did put much stock in them and now I'm doubly suspicious.
  hailelib | Jan 17, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Fair Disclosure: I am a professor emeritus of psychology with more than 30 years of experience in university teaching, research, and administration. In that capacity I taught doctoral classes in research design, psychological measurement, and psychological assessment, and undergraduate and graduate classes in social psychology. Super Forecasting, by Philip E. Tetlock and Dan Gardner, draws heavily from those areas of expertise. Consequently, my reactions to Super Forecasting are likely to be somewhat different than that of readers from different backgrounds.

"Will Russia officially annex additional Ukrainian territory in the next three months?" "How many piano tuners are there in Chicago?" "In the next year will any country withdraw from the eurozone?" "Will either the French or Swiss inquiries find elevated levels of polonium in the remains of Yasser Arafat's body?" "Will North Korea detonate a nuclear device before the end of the year?"

These and numerous equally arcane questions were posed to participants in The Good Judgment Project, a study of forecasting accuracy conducted by Tetlock and associates. Their research was part of a larger effort by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) to evaluate the accuracy of forecasts and to identify ways of making forecasts more accurate.

Super Forecasting begins with a review of cognitive biases that lead forecasters to erroneous judgments. Among these are the availability heuristic, illusion of control, confirmation bias, illusion of hindsight, belief perseverance, black swan, and others.

With this background the authors then provide a more detailed description of the IARPA study of forecasting accuracy and their efforts to identify the factors that allow some average individuals to become more accurate forecasters than experts whose primary job is making forecasts. This wide ranging book covers topics such as the importance of the random assignment of participants to research conditions, the misleading effects of cognitive biases, and issues that arise in teams such as cognitive loafing and groupthink. Readers are introduced to a diverse array of luminaries including Francis Galton, John Maynard Keynes, Daniel Kahneman, Paul Meehl, Richard Feynman, Ellen Langer and Amos Tversky. Topics that have given graduate students headaches for decades such as Bayesian statistics are introduced in an understandable manner. While this book might be seen as an intimidating reading assignment, numerous examples from popular culture are used to bring these academic topics to life: Captain Kirk and Star Trek, Annie Duke and strategies from professional poker, and Helmuth von Moltke and the command manual of the wehrmacht among others.

Despite the thoughtful selection of examples used to illustrate these academic concepts, I found Super Forecasting to be less than compelling reading. It may be that my background renders me less than an ideal reviewer. Nevertheless, I had difficulty maintaining my interest in Super Forecasting, the clear attention given to readability and the inclusion of illuminating examples from the real world notwithstanding. I typically found my enthusiasm waning after a few pages and I had to discipline myself to finish each chapter before setting the book aside. This stands in contrast to my reaction to books like Nate Silver's The Signal and the Noise: Why Most Predictions Fail — But Some Don't and Samuel Arbesman's The Half Life of Facts: Why Everything We Know has an Expiration Date, which I found to be fascinating, "can't put it down," reads.

I feel somewhat bad about giving Super Forecasting a lukewarm endorsement. In the abstract this book is everything you would want. It addresses an issue of great significance. It is conscientiously documented and describes its methodology in suitable detail. (I found in instances that I wanted more detail but agree with the authors' judgment about the detail appropriate for a popular treatment.) It considers complicated issues from multiple perspectives and offers nuanced judgments. It is noteworthy in its use of popular culture to bring concepts to life. I think Super Forecasting would be a good choice as supplemental reading in a graduate course in applied social psychology.

In the final analysis readers may well have a different reaction than I did. Perhaps it was just too much like a review of familiar concepts for me. ( )
  Tatoosh | Nov 22, 2016 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0804136696, Hardcover)

From one of the world’s most highly regarded social scientists, a transformative book on the habits of mind that lead to the best predictions
 
Everyone would benefit from seeing further into the future, whether buying stocks, crafting policy, launching a new product, or simply planning the week’s meals. Unfortunately, people tend to be terrible forecasters. As Wharton professor Philip Tetlock showed in a landmark 2005 study, even experts’ predictions are only slightly better than chance. However, an important and underreported conclusion of that study was that some experts do have real foresight, and Tetlock has spent the past decade trying to figure out why. What makes some people so good? And can this talent be taught?
 
In Superforecasting, Tetlock and coauthor Dan Gardner offer a masterwork on prediction, drawing on decades of research and the results of a massive, government-funded forecasting tournament. The Good Judgment Project involves tens of thousands of ordinary people—including a Brooklyn filmmaker, a retired pipe installer, and a former ballroom dancer—who set out to forecast global events. Some of the volunteers have turned out to be astonishingly good. They’ve beaten other benchmarks, competitors, and prediction markets. They’ve even beaten the collective judgment of intelligence analysts with access to classified information. They are "superforecasters."
 
In this groundbreaking and accessible book, Tetlock and Gardner show us how we can learn from this elite group. Weaving together stories of forecasting successes (the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound) and failures (the Bay of Pigs) and interviews with a range of high-level decision makers, from David Petraeus to Robert Rubin, they show that good forecasting doesn’t require powerful computers or arcane methods. It involves gathering evidence from a variety of sources, thinking probabilistically, working in teams, keeping score, and being willing to admit error and change course. Superforecasting offers the first demonstrably effective way to improve our ability to predict the future—whether in business, finance, politics, international affairs, or daily life—and is destined to become a modern classic.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 06 Jul 2015 19:25:37 -0400)

"From one of the world's most highly regarded social scientists, a transformative book on the habits of mind that lead to the best predictions. Everyone would benefit from seeing further into the future, whether buying stocks, crafting policy, launching a new product, or simply planning the week's meals. Unfortunately, people tend to be terrible forecasters. As Wharton professor Philip Tetlock showed in a landmark 2005 study, even experts' predictions are only slightly better than chance. However, an important and underreported conclusion of that study was that some experts do have real foresight, and Tetlock has spent the past decade trying to figure out why. What makes some people so good? And can this talent be taught? In Superforecasting, Tetlock and coauthor Dan Gardner offer a masterwork on prediction, drawing on decades of research and the results of a massive, government-funded forecasting tournament. The Good Judgment Project involves tens of thousands of ordinary people--including a Brooklyn filmmaker, a retired pipe installer, and a former ballroom dancer--who set out to forecast global events. Some of the volunteers have turned out to be astonishingly good. They've beaten other benchmarks, competitors, and prediction markets. They've even beaten the collective judgment of intelligence analysts with access to classified information. They are "superforecasters." In this groundbreaking and accessible book, Tetlock and Gardner show us how we can learn from this elite group. Weaving together stories of forecasting successes (the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound) and failures (the Bay of Pigs) and interviews with a range of high-level decision makers, from David Petraeus to Robert Rubin, they show that good forecasting doesn't require powerful computers or arcane methods. It involves gathering evidence from a variety of sources, thinking probabilistically, working in teams, keeping score, and being willing to admit error and change course. Superforecasting offers the first demonstrably effective way to improve our ability to predict the future--whether in business, finance, politics, international affairs, or daily life--and is destined to become a modern classic"--… (more)

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