Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Vaclav Smil on forecasting

From The Perils of Long-Range Energy Forecasting: Reflections on Looking Far Ahead via Farnam Street:
"...a new century will make little difference to our ability of making point forecasts: we will spend more time and money on playing the future game—but our predictions will continue to be wrong.

But acknowledging these realities is not the same as advocating a complete abstention from looking far ahead. There is a fundamental difference between decisions that are good only if a particular prediction turns out to be correct—and the ones that are good for a range of alternative futures: scenarios, rather than point forecasts, are thus much more valuable, both from heuristic and from practical points of view. As the future is inherently unpredictable, it is the decision analysis or contingency planning under a range of alternative scenarios that should be pursued most diligently. Techniques comprising this approach range from narrative and normative scenarios to Monte Carlo simulations and to stochastic programming."

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