The author (Shaywitz) claims that most changes in our society are unpredictable because change is not normally distributed. Things like the development of the Internet are only obvious in hindsight. This is why I wrote the post on Straight Line Projections.
Shaywitz points to 4 reasons why predicting who will be rich or what the future holds is contrary to our very nature:
- confirmation bias - our tendency to reaffirm our beliefs rather than contradict them (the rich get rich by stealing from the poor)
- narrative fallacy - our weakness for compelling stories (the media uses this to reaffirm a poor economy when the facts are contrary)
- ludic fallacy - our willingness to oversimplify and take models too seriously (think global warming)
- epistemic arrogance - our habit of overestimating our knowledge and underestimating our ignorance (global warming again)
One statement that rings so true to me is this:
"What is surprising is not so much the magnitude of our forecast errors, but our absence of awareness of it. we tend to fail miserably at predicting the future, but such failure is little noted nor long remembered."