This slim book is a reader-friendly overview of the predictability of various systems – physical, biological, economic or weather-related – and explains why it is often simply impossible to expect “certain” scientific forecasts.
Formulating predictions about how a given phenomenon is going to evolve is something everyone falls for: from top-tier media to pub chat, as soon as an event manifests itself it is engulfed in a deluge of predictions, many of them unfounded.
Can scientifically grounded predictions really be made, though? Well, it depends on the system we are considering. Indeed, very few systems can be predicted with a high degree of reliability; for the most part, any prediction is necessarily limited to a probabilistic estimate of multiple possible evolutions.
In addition to the objective difficulties inherent in these systems, there are also subjective unconscious psychological mechanisms that make one a bad predictor. Finally, some systems are unpredictable by their very nature. This is why, very often, simply acknowledging “I don’t know" is the most honest and scientifically grounded answer to the question “What’s going to happen?”.