Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Forecasting and Chaos

Figure this out: forecasting techniques are far more advanced than they were just 20 or 30 years ago, yet the world is not, in general, becoming more predictable. Rather, in many ways, it is becoming more chaotic.

Part of what is going on is that better prediction leads to better optimization. We usually think of optimization as a good thing that leads to efficiency, but you get a different sense of it if you consider some of its synonyms. Optimization can mean pushing the limits or living as close to the edge as you can get. It is good when it works but lends itself to catastrophic failure when things go wrong, and this is one small part of the chaos we find in the world.

A more general way of looking at this is to think of what happens when you empower people. When people are empowered, more new and different things can happen, and that implies a greater potential for chaos or at least unexpected changes. From that, we can probably expect the world to get more chaotic and unpredictable in the years ahead.