Some Thoughts on Gardner’s “Future Babble” (2010)


the cover of Dan Gardner's "Future Babble" with the title, author, and blurbs in black over a black and white crystal ball with pale yellow rays radiating from it

Dan Gardner’s Future Babble (McClelland and Stewart Ltd.: Toronto, 2010) is a pop book with a structural theory for why so many people get called out to predict the future using methods which fail nine times out of ten, then called back out after one failed prediction to make another. It relies upon earlier trade books (such as Phil Tetlock‘s work on expert judgement and When Prophecy Fails) and the psychology of cognitive biases and heuristics. One of Gardner’s favourite case studies is Paul Ehrlich who like Noam Chomsky spent most of his career repeating ideas he had in the 1960s (but whose ideas were much more easily falsified: the death rate did not rapidly rise from the late 1970s, and people all around the world start having smaller families once women have the ability to chose).

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