Future Babble

  • by Dan Gardner
  • Narrated by Walter Dixon
  • 11 hrs and 2 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

In Future Babble, award-winning journalist Dan Gardner presents landmark research debunking the whole expert prediction industry and explores our obsession with the future.
In 2008, as the price of oil surged above $140 a barrel, experts said it would soon hit $200; it then plunged to $30. In 1967, they said the USSR would be the world’s fastest-growing economy by 2000; by 2000, the USSR no longer existed. In 1911, it was pronounced that there would be no more wars in Europe—we all know how that turned out.
The truth is that experts are about as accurate as dart-throwing monkeys. And yet, every day we ask them to predict the future—everything from the weather to the likelihood of a catastrophic terrorist attack.
Here is the first book to examine this phenomenon, showing why our brains yearn for certainty about the future, why we are attracted to those who predict it confidently, and why it’s so easy for us to ignore the trail of outrageously wrong forecasts. How good you are at predicting the future doesn’t depend on your education or experience. It depends on how you think: like a fox or like a hedgehog. Foxes know a little about a lot of things. They have doubts. They often sound wishy-washy. And you don’t see them on television much. On the other hand, hedgehogs know a lot about one thing. They are absolutely certain. They are confident. Almost every popular expert you can think of is a hedgehog. And they are experts at explaining away predictions they made that turned out to be wrong. For real insight into what is coming next, you need to consult foxes and think like one, too. Future Babble explains in detail what that means, and how you can tell foxes and hedgehogs apart.
n this example-packed, sometimes darkly hilarious audiobook, journalist Dan Gardner shows how seminal research by UC Berkeley professor Philip Tetlock proved that the more famous a pundit is, the more likely he is to be right about as often as a stopped watch. Gardner also draws on current research in cognitive psychology, political science, and behavioral economics in delivering this reassuring message: The future is always uncertain, but the end is not always near.

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What the Critics Say

“We can only hope that this brilliant book will shock the human race, and particularly the chattering expert class, into a condition of humility about proclamations about the future.” (John Mueller, political scientist, Ohio State University; author of Overblown)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Sobering and Informative

I'm a bit surprised at the other 2 reviews listed here and I fear they may have missed the point. In particular, judging a book based on what it "implies by omission" is inexplicably poor logic. Defending unfulfilled predictions based on the idea that they may one day come true is similarly difficult to digest.

Dan Gardner points out in this book that expert predictions are wrong far, far more often than we'd like to think (equivalent to a monkey throwing darts) and yet people put far too much trust in those predictions time and time again. He does not recommend any particular course of action to remedy this (other than reasonable caution), but so what? He points out this error and points out that it continues to be made despite scads of evidence showing why we should consciously try to avoid making it. He shows why we make this mistake. He explains the science behind the book, which is solid.

He does not imply (even by omission) that we should not plan for the future. He merely points out that using expert predictions has proven to be an ineffective tool for decision making. For example, we SHOULD develop and improve renewable, environmentally friendly energy sources because it makes perfect sense to do so, not because some "expert" predicts huge oil shortages.

We all love to have answers and we all love to believe we have insider knowledge of what the future holds. This is a serious weakness that can be and is exploited by people time and time again. You are far better off with no answer at all than you are with a wrong answer. At least understanding that we don't know what the future holds is a reasonable position to take, and we can move forward ready for anything.
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- Christopher

A must read for all futurists and visionaries

Great to get the facts that most predictions are wrong. Quite funny that people still like to hear experts give more predictions even when the last one was wrong.
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- Future Navigator

Book Details

  • Release Date: 03-16-2011
  • Publisher: Gildan Media, LLC