“More broadly, politicians and investors are placing a great deal of weight on a crude and rough estimate that has never been particularly reliable.”

August 17th, 2011

When will people learn. Experts can’t make predictions. Why place so much faith in them? I am reading Future Babble now, which makes that point quite well by looking at many predictions made over the last century, and laughing at how ludicrous they were.

“People want the best information that we have right now. But people need to understand that the best information that we have right now isn’t necessarily very informative,” said Tara M. Sinclair, an assistant professor of economics and international affairs at George Washington University. “It’s just the best information that we have.”

If basic assumptions start changing rapidly — business failures during a recession, start-ups during a recovery — the estimates can quickly lose touch with economic reality.

“When we most want timely information is when they’re least able to give it to us,” said Professor Sinclair. “That’s exactly when those historical patterns are breaking down.”

Future Babble argues that people seek certainty, and are afraid of uncertainty. They would rather put their faith in false prophets and gurus who offers predictions about what will be in the future than remain uncertain.

Predictions are usually worthless the moment they are made.