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 18: Predicting the future to shape the future

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita


The urge to predict has occupied a prominent place in history since the dawn of humanity. Whether gazing at the stars, untangling sheep entrails, or praying to the gods, the human story entails trying to anticipate the future and maybe even change it. The undertakings in this book are, in that sense, part of a long line of efforts to devise ways to foretell, to anticipate, and to prepare for what is to come. Yet, its contributors tackle the problems of prediction in a manner completely unlike those who sought revelation in omens and portents. While breaking sharply with the fortune-teller, soothsayer approach to prediction, still ours is not an entirely new effort. We can go back at least to some of the important Greek mathematicians, such as Pythagoras or Zeno, and certainly to the founders of the modern scientific method, people such as Galileo, Hobbes, Boyle, Newton, Lavoisier, and Priestley, as well as Fermat and Pascal, and find in them a keen desire to predict, but to predict based on the rigors of logic and evidence rather than divination. That has been the mission here, to investigate what rigorous logic and equally rigorous uses of evidence can do to help uncover the likely paths of the future and the likely mechanisms to redirect those paths. In this chapter, I hope to elucidate two sets of issues related to using science to predict and to engineer the future.

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