To the surprise and amazement of multimillionaire Family Radio preacher Harold Camping, the world did not come to a dramatic end on May 21, 2011, at 6pm as predicted. Using biblical verses, hints and codes to determine the exact time and date of Judgment Day, Camping’s dire predictions generated a lot of media space in the days preceding May 21. And the fact that Camping had frequently miscalculated the date of Judgment Day in the past did not deter his followers from believing that this time his calculations were correct.
Prediction-debunker Dan Gardner
The person least surprised on earth by Camping’s failure to correctly predict the end of the world is prediction-debunker Dan Gardner, author of “Future Babble – why expert predictions fail and why we believe them anyway”. Gardner claims he did not write the book in order to mock particular individuals (although he comes perilously close), but in order to better understand the human desire to know what will happen, why that desire will never be satisfied, and how we can better prepare ourselves for the unknowable future.
Experts are as accurate as dart-throwing monkeys
According to Gardner, experts are about as accurate as dart-throwing monkeys. Yet every day, we – and that includes the business world – ask them to predict the future, and every day we ignore the trail of outrageously wrong forecasts.
We are hopeless
We are always looking for business books that can stimulate a great conversation. Gardner’s previous book, Risk, explained how hopeless we are in differentiating between cause and effect. In Future Babble, Gardner shows us how hopeless we are at predicting the future – and how hopeless we are in weaning ourselves off our need to believe in such predictions. Most of the business books out there that are predicting all sorts of wild and wonderful futures, are not quite as wacky as Harold Camping’s predictions.
Gardner’s book is a great antidote to the futurologists. We recommend the book to anyone fixated on how to predict future business trends.