Predicting the Future in Science, Economics, and Politics
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Predicting the Future in Science, Economics, and Politics

Edited by Frank Whelon Wayman, Paul R. Williamson, Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Solomon Polachek

It is a puzzle that while academic research has increased in specialization, the important and complex problems facing humans urgently require a synthesis of understanding. This unique collaboration attempts to address such a problem by bringing together a host of prominent scholars from across the sciences to offer new insights into predicting the future. They demonstrate that long-term trends and short-term incentives need to be understood in order to adopt effective policies, or even to comprehend where we currently stand and the sort of future that awaits us.
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Chapter 13: From altruism to the future frequency of war: how consilient explanation differs from prediction

Frank Whelon Wayman


Prediction of the future of armed conflict can be done using methods of extrapolation of long-term and short-term trends, as demonstrated at the outset of this chapter with data on inter-state and intra-state wars (from the Correlates of War Project). The use of Project data over all the years since 1816 allows more accurate forecast of global inter-state war trends than when only data from the past decade are used, so the amount of interstate war has been more likely to regress to the centuries-long mean than to be correlated with the immediate-past decade. Such forecasting of a variable using prior data on the same variable is an example of emphasis on prediction and de-emphasis on explanation. Explanation and prediction are often said to be two sides of the same coin, yet the image on the explanatory side is often the more mysterious. Explanation may involve either a predictor variable at the same level of analysis as the outcome variable or predictor variables at a lower level of analysis. Bueno de Mesquita, for example, began his work on armed conflict by explaining war levels in the international system as an outcome of the systemic polarization (with systems becoming more war-prone immediately after the military alliances become more polarized). Wilkinson (2005) continues to refine the understanding of such conditions of systemic polarity and polarization, as in Chapter 12 in this volume.

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