Dan's Books

Future Babble

Dan's latest book is Future Babble, a critical look at expert predictions and the psychology that explains why people believe them even though they consistently fail. Renowned Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker says Future Babble "should be required reading" and Philip Tetlock, a leading researcher on decision-making and forecasting at the University of California, describes it as "a rare mix of superb scholarship and zesty prose."

In Canada, Future Babble was released October 12, 2010. In Australia, it will be published February, 2011. In the United States: March, 2011. In the United Kingdom: May, 2011.

Risk: The Science and Politics of Fear

Published in 2008, Dan's first book was Risk: The Science and Politics of Fear (The Science of Fear in the United States). This widely praised examination of risk perception was a best-seller in the United Kingdom and Canada. In 2009, the Canadian Science Writers' Association awarded Risk the "Science in Society Prize." In 2010, the Daily Telegraph declared Risk one of the top five "best brain science books", alongside classics from Steven Pinker and Daniel Dennett.

Risk has been published in 11 countries and 7 languages.

Future Babble : Why Expert Predictions Fail - and Why We Believe Them Anyway

Sunday, 22 August 2010 15:44

"Future Babble is genuinely arresting... required reading for journalists, politicians, academics and anyone who listens to them."

— Steven Pinker, Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of How the Mind Works and The Stuff of Thought

In 2008, as the price of oil surged above $140 a barrel, experts said it would soon hit $200; a few months later it plunged to $30. In 1967, they said the USSR would have one of the fastest-growing economies in the year 2000; in 2000, the USSR did not exist. In 1911, it was pronounced that there would be no more wars in Europe; we all know how that turned out. Face it, experts are about as accurate as dart-throwing monkeys. And yet every day we ask them to predict the future — everything from the weather to the likelihood of a catastrophic terrorist attack. Future Babble is the first book to examine this phenomenon, showing why our brains yearn for certainty about the future, why we are attracted to those who predict it confidently, and why it's so easy for us to ignore the trail of outrageously wrong forecasts.

In this fast-paced, example-packed, sometimes darkly hilarious book, journalist Dan Gardner shows how seminal research by UC Berkeley professor Philip Tetlock proved that pundits who are more famous are less accurate — and the average expert is no more accurate than a flipped coin. Gardner also draws on current research in cognitive psychology, political science, and behavioral economics to discover something quite reassuring: The future is always uncertain, but the end is not always near.

Reviews / Press

"It's rare for a book on public affairs to say something genuinely new, but Future Babble is genuinely arresting, and should be required reading for journalists, politicians, academics, and anyone who listens to them. Mark my words: if Future Babble is widely read, then within 3.7 years the number of overconfident predictions by self-anointed experts talking through their hats will decline by 46.2%, and the world will become no less than 32.1% wiser." — Steven Pinker, Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of How the Mind Works and The Stuff of Thought

"Delicious...a trove of detailed research." — Trevor Butterworth, Wall Street Journal

"Wonderfully perspicacious." — Ronald Bailey, Reason

"It is a tour de force. Absolutely outstanding." — Matt Ridley, author of The Rational Optimist

"Gardner squeezes a heavy dose of fascinating social science and recent history into a quick, smooth read that greatly illuminates our penchant for prediction.... In short, it really is an excellent book that anyone who is into the social sciences would enjoy. I highly recommend it." — Jesse Singal, Boston Globe

"...knocks the stuffing out of those irritating and pontificating experts on everything." — Alan Gold, The Australian

"...an entertaining, well researched guide to decades of totally wrong predictions from eminent figures." — Bernd Debusmann, Reuters

"A witty, lively debunking of wrong-headed predictions about the future by 'experts' -- and why we frequently fail to notice their spectacularly dumb mistakes." — Maclean's magazine, which chose Future Babble as the #2 non-fiction book of 2010.

"The prose is light and humorous, yet the research and insights are sharp and powerful." — Melbourne Herald Sun

"Exhilirating.... a bracingly enjoyable book." — Francis Wheen, Literary Review

"Well-researched, well-reasoned, and engagingly written. I'm not making any predictions, but we can only hope that this brilliant book will shock the human race, and particularly the chattering expert class, into a condition of humility about proclamations about the future." — John Mueller, Author of Overblown and Political Scientist, Ohio State University

"As Yogi Berra observed, 'it's tough to make predictions, especially about the future.' In this brilliant and engaging book, Dan Gardner shows us how tough forecasting really is, and how easy it is to be convinced otherwise by a confident expert with a good story. This is must reading for anyone who cares about the future." — Paul Slovic, Professor of Psychology, University of Oregon

"If you are paying a lot of money for forecasting services—be they crystal ball gazers or math modelers or something in between—put your orders on hold until you have had a chance to read this book—a rare mix of superb scholarship and zesty prose. You may want to cancel, or at least re-negotiate the price.  For the rest of us who are just addicted to what experts are telling us everyday in every kind of media about what the future holds, Future Babble will show you how to be a bit smarter than what you usually hear." — Philip Tetlock, Author of Expert Political Judgement and Mitchell Professor of Organizational Behavior, Hass School of Business, University of California

"If you are interested in the future of the society in which you live, you must buy this book. It is not often you stumble across an accessible analytical work that is so original it approaches genius." — Richard Sherbaniuk, Edmonton Journal

"Compelling stuff...Future Babble is chock-a-block with examples amusing and distressing." — Globe and Mail

"A masterful dissection of teleological fallacies...and also a freaking blast." — Doug Saunders, Globe and Mail

"Dan Gardner is one of the country's few genuinely thoughtful newspaper columnists." — Jordan Timm, Canadian Business magazine

"Future Babble is a bracing, perspicacious and ultimately devastating case for the inability of our so-called seers to call it right." — Barron's

Media

The Agenda with Steve Paikin

 

Business News Network

CTV News at Noon

Book Covers

comments  

 
#16 Milton Caplan 2012-08-07 11:47
Enjoyed reading Risk; just finished Future Babble and thought it was brilliant. Fascinating but frankly not surprising to see that expert predictions are often wrong. I will do my best to be a fox going forward......will definitely make reference to this book in an upcoming blog post. Hope to have the chance to continue to conversation.
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#15 Svetlana 2012-05-14 05:51
How can I buy this book from audible.com if I am Italian and live in Italy.
Thank you for your help.
Svetlana
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#14 John West 2011-01-16 13:28
I have alway said that you can predict anything but the future.

I think someone else probably said it too, but I still say it anyway.

Why not .... it's true.
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#13 Donald 2010-11-21 16:27
Will there be an Audi edition?
Looking forward to reading it.

Cheers
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#12 Ian L. McQueen 2010-11-08 13:38
Your security codes are too difficult even for a human to decipher!! It took me at least two tries each time to guess what some of the squiggles represented.

IanM
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#11 Ian L. McQueen 2010-11-08 13:36
[Continued]
And on the subject of Al Gore, one subject that I would have suggested on the CBC program would have been to ask how the person proposing a coming disaster would benefit from the methods suggested to counter it, like so-called "carbon trading". Al Gore is one of the founders of the (now failed) Chicago Carbon Exchange, and stood to make a fortune from it- every presentation of his error-filled An Inconvenient Truth was yet another sales pitch for CCX.
I will read your book, and am going to suggest it to fellow followers of true science (misnames "sceptics"). And in case you didn't include it in your book, the definition of "expert": "X" stand for the unknown, and a "spurt" is a drip under pressure.

IanM
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#10 Ian L. McQueen 2010-11-08 13:36
Dan (if I may)-
I heard the phone-in with you today on Maritime Noon (CBC). Excellent program, and the topic of your book is very timely. I have become very interested in the subject of climate, and spend two to six hours a day trying to keep up with information. Everything that you talked about today ("experts", etc) applies 100% to those in the business of promoting the "global warming" scare. Those, like myself, who take the time to read blogs like Watts Up With That, learn what is going on behind the "climate" scenes and why the confident pronouncements by people like Al Gore are worthless.
[To be continued]
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#9 Dan Gardner 2010-11-07 19:25
Kamyar,

I predict you'll enjoy chapter four.

Dan
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#8 Kamyar Hazaveh 2010-11-07 18:37
Excellent interview on the Agenda. I enjoyed every minute of it and ordered several copies of the book for our company.

I do economic forecasting for a living at a large buy-side investment firm. You are absolutely right about economists and their forecasts.

Your Japan example has a contemporary parallel: China. I don't believe in China taking over the world economy by 2025 or so which many seem to have bought into. I just think forecasting that far out is fundamentally impossible.
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#7 Stan Blakey 2010-11-03 06:37
What an excellent book. Steven Pinker is quite right.

Thanks for writing it.

I hope you will continue to research the research literature for more insights into this whole subject.

One item that comes to mind is the comparison with other animals. In chapter three you describe both commonalities and differences in confirmation bias and pattern recognition biases between humans and other animals. I wonder if anyone has studied the existence of poor punditry in animals -whether it is over confident chest thumping or over-zealous warning calls.
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