Tag Archives: prediction

The Guide To Predicting The Future

“Two decades is a sweet spot for prognosticators of radical change: near enough to be attention-grabbing and relevant, yet far enough to make it possible to suppose that a string breakthroughs, currently only vaguely imaginable, might be then have occurred. ..
Twenty years may also be close to typical duration remaining of a forecaster´s career, bounding the reputational risk of a bold prediction”
-Nick Bostrom (Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers and Strategies)
 
Not unlike other fields, advertising industry is full of bold predictions. Majority of them are completely off-the-mark. Predictions seldom come with accountability. The temptation to come with sexy soundbite lures you more than truly thinking about potential outcomes (or actually predicting the future). It is better to have a bold opinion than to be right:
 
“An economist is an expert who will know tomorrow why the things he predicted yesterday didn’t happen today. ”
Evan Esar

I have read in multiple sources that this year will be the year of VR. This is a great example of Amara´s law, overestimating nascent but highly visible technology on short run:

“We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.”

VR is currently at the sweet spot of being obscure enough that making predictions about it can raise eyebrows (no one should not be shocked anymore that future is mobile for example). On the other hand, there are enough tangible examples of it so people can understand it. The innovations that will truly revolutionize advertising are harder to grasp at this moment or have not even been developed yet. When they will truly happen, they are too obvious then to catch the headlines.

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Always Go Beyond Numbers

People don´t understand probabilities.

“When people hear these analyses, however, they are not reassured but become more fearful than ever — they hadn’t realized there are so, many ways for something to go wrong! They mentally tabulate the number of disaster scenarios, rather than mentally aggregating the probabilities of the disaster scenarios.
Steven Pinker, Blank Slate
 
I think generally people don´t understand numbers, period.
 
Good example is the probability of someone becoming a NBA player. The odds are naturally low, but there is a good indicator that increases the probability. That indicator is height.

For a man between 6 feet to 6”2”, the chance of being in NBA is five in a million.
At 6”2” to 6”4”, the chances improve slightly to 20 to million.
Man between 6”10” and 7 it is 32000 in a million (3.2%).
And for men over 7 seven feet tall, 17% of them are in the NBA right now*. So every six guy over 7ft you would encounter would be NBA player. Because massive growth is quite often attributed to some disease, it is even more likely that healthy seven-footer is a NBA player. So with narrowing the group, we have actually find quite a good indicator of your probabilities of becoming NBA player.

It is always important to go beyond the numbers.

JJ Redick

JJ Redick is one of the rare NBA player with shorter wingspan than his height

Even the short NBA players are not really that short. Nate Robinson is only 5”7”, but his wingspan is 6”1”. NBA players in general have almost double more wingspan than regular people. Generally it is really rare that a player has shorter wingspan than his height. Yao Ming was one of them, but on the other hand he was 7”6”. So if you would need to predict someone´s ability to be a NBA player and you would need to rely only on two data points: height and wingspan would be probably the best with the former being more important.

*Stats read from a great book by David Epstein: The Sports Gene.

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