So, what does the future hold?


…NO-ONE KNOWS! Deal with it. Move on.

It doesn’t matter whether you have a calculator or a PhD, a supercomputer and a job with a 200 year old financial institution that is a fact. So, can we PLEASE get over our prediction addiction and deal with what we are able to influence in the real world!?

Coincidentally, this morning, I read an excellent book review (Models Behaving Badly by Emanuel Derman) and I wanted to share his quote about mathematical models: “we are trying to force the ugly stepsister’s foot into Cinderella’s pretty glass slipper. It doesn’t fit without cutting off some of the essential parts.” 

But here is yet another expert making the same point…

Simulations of highly dynamic natural systems have shown that models of growing complexity are moving slowly toward reasonable replications of reality: global climate modelling is a fine example of this slow, but indisputable, trend. In contrast, forecasts of interactions of social, economic, technical, and environmental developments are not going to improve by making models more complex. This is because so many critical variables determining eventual outcomes cannot be either anticipated or, when they get considered, their probabilities cannot be confidently placed within bounds narrow enough to generate a restricted fan of possible outcomes that might be used in confident decision making. Once the inherent uncertainties make the outcome fan too wide, there is little point in building more complex models: we might have obtained pretty much the same results with a small electronic calculator and the proverbial back of an envelope.

What to Do Instead

Read more of this post

Vaclav Smil: The (In)Accuracy of Long-Range Forecasting


I should really be grateful that I don’t need to continually build a case for Quantitative Complexity Management because many, more learned, individuals than me keep on doing it! However, the problems remain…WHAT WILL IT TAKE FOR PEOPLE OF INFLUENCE TO STOP: MAKING ASSUMPTIONS IN AN ATTEMPT TO PREDICT THE FUTURE; TALKING ABOUT THE IMPACT OF INCREASING COMPLEXITY; IGNORING THE INTERDISCIPLINARY CASE FOR CHANGE; WASTING TIME WITH AGREEMENTS AND REGULATIONS TOO COMPLEX TO EFFECTIVELY MANAGE…AND EVERY OTHER SODDIN’ THING THAT RELATES TO BUILDING A MORE STABLE AND SUSTAINABLE ECONOMIC BASIS???

Vaclav Smil profile photo

Vaclav Smil offers some thoughts on the accuracy of long-range energy forecasting. Smil is truly a goldmine of thought. The excerpts below are taken from The Perils of Long-Range Energy Forecasting: Reflections on Looking Far Ahead.

On Complexity

Greater complexity that was required to make the forecasts more realistic also necessitated the introduction of longer chains of concatenated assumptions—and this necessity was defeating the very quest for greater realism…

On the Failure of Experts

What strikes me most when looking back is the extent of individual and collective failure. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the lack of imagination underlying this failure—or, conversely, of exaggerated expectations, and of often surprisingly swiftly disproved quantitative predictions—is that so many erroneous forecasts have come from eminent innovators or from individuals (or, more recently, from institutions) considered to be the leading experts in their field….
Perhaps the most precious example of failed national long-range energy forecasting—remembered fondly, I am sure, by all those who have been around energy matters for some time—is the goal of U.S. energy independence charted by the Nixon administration for the 1980s. Felix thought that the self-sufficiency can be realized by the year 1985, despite the fact that his forecast called for the consumption of some 3000 Mtoe in 1985. A reality check: in 1999 the USA imported more than a fifth of its total primary energy use, which was about 2400 Mtoe, and just over half of its demand for liquid fuels! Read more of this post