Paul Saffo on the Rules of Forecasting

Saffo to me was always some sort of weird wizard who thought and saw differently than others. I’ve met folks who channel the future, and it’s always wondrous and bewildering.

Saffo gave a Long Now seminar recently and here (link below) is the summary (alas, I am way way behind on listening or watching them).

A few things here I’d like to throw at the Singularity Techno-Optomists.

Rules bandied about in Saffo’s talk:

  • Wild cards sensitize us to surprise.
  • Change is never linear. (one discontinuity can derail your favourite singular optimism)
  • Look for indicators- things that don’t fit.
  • Look back twice as far.
  • Cherish failure.
  • Be indifferent.
  • Assume you are wrong. And forecast often.
  • Embrace uncertainty.

Go listen to it.

Liunk: Long Views » Blog Archive » Paul Saffo, “Embracing Uncertainty – the secret to effective forecasting”:

Rules of Forecasting

Reflecting on his 25 years as a forecaster, Paul Saffo pointed out that a forecaster’s job is not to predict outcomes, but to map the “cone of uncertainty” on a subject. Where are the edges of what might happen? (Uncertainty is cone-shaped because it expands as you project further into the future— next decade has more surprises in store than next week.)


  1. Elated with Saffo seminar

    I finally listened to the Saffo’s Long Now talk on forecasting. What really excited me is that he said some things that I’ve been thinking about. I wonder if I picked it up from the same folks he’s picked it

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