A thumb rule to distrust predictions

Everybody wishes to predict the future with their complicated models – meteorologists, economists, political analysts, nutritionists. Here is a method to call out predictions that you cannot trust.

Think about the system that is being predicted. A level 1 chaotic system does not respond to predictions made about it. The weather is a good example – despite being complex with numerous factors and variables, we are able to predict the weather today a week in advance with a fair degree of accuracy. That is because the weather doesn’t change based on our forecasts about it.

A level 2 chaotic system is one that changes based on what we predict about it. If an astrologer told you that you would meet with an accident in Delhi next year, you can change that by simply not visiting Delhi. An economic forecast for copper’s price next year has a direct influence on its price – a higher forecast price would drive several people to buy copper today, which would increase the price faster than predicted. Both voters and politicians respond to political predictions, and therefore, they must be discredited as well.  

It’s funny how most predictions on the news (excluding weather forecasts) deal with level 2 chaotic systems. Before you believe a prediction, pause to think about the nature of its underlying system.

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