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THE ART & SCIENCE OF FORECASTING

The Prediction Trade Science with a touch of art has replaced mysticism as the preferred method of foretelling what lies ahead BY ED MCKINLEY

T

he word “Superforecasting” doesn’t carry any hidden meaning. “Super” means far above average, and “forecasting” is the act of making predictions. So, Superforecasters are simply much better than most people at calculating what lies ahead, whether the subject is stocks, options, elections, sports, warfare or just about anything else. Search “Superforecasting,” and most of the results point to a book that came out five years ago: Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction by Philip E. Tetlock, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and its Wharton Business School, and Dan Gardner, a senior fellow at the University of Ottawa’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. In their book, Tetlock and Gardner contend that most “experts” make predictions with accuracy that’s only slightly better than chance. But with training, clear thinking and scientific rigor—as well as a measure of natural talent and some good mental habits—Superforecasters learn to make better-than-average prognostications and can even beat the subject-matter experts by a wide margin. The book springs from the work Tetlock pursued with Barbara Mellers, his spouse and research partner. The couple led a University of Pennsylvania team called the Good Judgment Project that identified and trained Superforecasters as part of a government-led tournament of forecasting (see “The Superforecasters,” p. 22). Tetlock and Mellers later started Good Judgment Inc., a commercial enterprise that uses Superforecasters to make forecasts and trains forecasters for businesses and governmental agencies (see “Forecasting as a Livelihood,” p. 19). Art or science? Outsiders often wonder if Superforecasters, who are formally defined as the top 2% of forecasters, approach

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