Photo worth seeing: Analysis beats intuition

Cover How to Predict What Nobody Expects by Kit Yates

Who wouldn’t like to know what the future holds? But predictions are anything but certain. Otherwise it would be easy to win football bets, predict the development of stock prices or slow down climate change.

The main concern of Kit Yates is to find out what stumbling blocks lie on the way to good predictions and how we can avoid them. The lecturer in mathematics at the University of Bath does this with great enthusiasm and manages to do so without using any equations. None of the concepts he presents are without clear, well-researched and often humorous examples. Although some passages are very detailed, the reading often develops page-turner qualities.

For Yates, chance and non-linear behavior are the fundamental causes of errors when looking into the future: we see causal relationships and patterns where there are none and we reflexively estimate exponential developments as linear. The author is particularly interested in the findings of game theory and chaos theory.

A part of the future will always remain hidden behind the time horizon. The influence of chance and gaps in knowledge play a decisive role in complex questions. The scenarios that can also be derived from incomplete data at least offer the opportunity to prepare for future events, such as extreme weather or earthquake prevention. Ulrich Schendzielorz

Kit Yates
How to predict what nobody expects
Make correct predictions and avoid useless ones
Piper, 432 pp., € 24,-
ISBN 978-3-492-07251-9

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