From the September/October 2009 issue of The National Interest.
Ian Bremmer and Preston Keat, The Fat Tail: The Power of Political Knowledge for Strategic Investing (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 272 pp., $27.95.
Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, The Predictioneer's Game: Using the Logic of Brazen Self-Interest to See and Shape the Future (New York: Random House, 2009), 272 pp., $27.00.
George Friedman, The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century (New York: Doubleday, 2009), 272 pp., $25.95.
The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century WE ARE awash in political-forecasting products: books, reports, updates, outlooks, data points, extrapolations, scenarios . . . and who doesn't want to have a glimpse into the future? Who doesn't want to know whether the Dow will close above ten thousand at year's end, whether Russia will bully more of its neighbors, whether North Korea will do something really "crazy," whether the Saudis can maintain their oil production . . . and who among us is not curious whether 2045 will be the year of the "singularity" when, according to some futurists, artificial intelligence surpasses human minds, technological advances skyrocket under the control of machine-human hybrids and those of us who can hang on long enough have our own shot at immortality? But if wishes were horses, beggars would ride. There is a paucity of evidence-peer-reviewed scientific evidence-that forecasters know how to deliver the goods: reliably accurate political, economic and technological predictions. In fact, when I have staged competitions, many forecasters fail to outperform the proverbial dart-throwing chimpanzee-and most cannot outperform extrapolation algorithms that simply predict "more of the same."