I am fascinated with the process of making predictions. Much of my life includes predictions. Your life does, too.
I have to make predictions when I drive to work. How much traffic will there be? What is the best route to take? How much gas do I need to make it there?
There are apps and programs to help with that. There are programs that now receive real-time traffic data from cell phone signals, and are able to make up-to-the-minute predictions on traffic.
When my app tells me that my drive is going to take me an extra 45 minutes, it is usually very accurate with that prediction.
I make predictions based upon the weather. I dress differently, and pack differently (if I’m traveling), based upon the weather information that I receive.
The weather information I receive (yes, there is an app for that), is accurate. I know it is easy to complain about weather forecasts, but they are close most of the time. My app predicted a temperature today starting at 59, and going up to 80. It is 79 degrees right now.
Other people (and companies) make predictions about us all the time. My mortgage company made a prediction about my wife and I when they decided to give us a mortgage. Our life insurance company made some predictions about us when we applied for life insurance. Our car insurance company prices their insurance rates based on reviews of our driving history, where we live, and how much we drive.
One of the most interesting areas to predict are elections. There is a firm called fivethirtyeight.com, founded by Nate Silver, that does election predictions (the “538” is the total number of electoral votes available in a Presidential election). Check out the 538.com website if you haven’t done so before. The site is (relatively) neutral, and focused on making election predictions at the national and the state level.
A few years ago, Nate Silver wrote a book about making predictions, called “The Signal and The Noise”. He writes about the challenges of making predictions in a variety of areas, including finance, sports, weather, earthquakes and politics.
Nate Silver is remarkably accurate in his predictions. He has predicted not only the Presidential winner, but almost all of the Senate and House elections, each of the last two election cycles. So I pay attention to his predictions.
So this is my prediction. I predict that if you go to the 538 website (projects.fivethirtyeight.com) on the day before the upcoming election, and look at the number of electoral votes Nate Silver predicts for the major candidates, that his final prediction will be within 2% of the final result.
I may not like all of the predictions I receive, but I want to be prepared for the results. I may not like the weather forecast, but at least if I know that it is going to rain, I can pack an umbrella.