Dan Gardner

Writer, consultant, and co-author of Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction

The Art and Science of Forecasting and Risk Assessment

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Biography

"The most important book on decision making since Daniel Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow." —Jason Zweig The Wall Street Journal

Dan Gardner is a journalist who examines the processes by which we forecast the future, in order to facilitate decision-making. He offers up demonstrably more effective ways to predict what's coming — invaluable knowledge for business, finance, politics, international affairs, and daily life.

Human endeavour relies on forecasts and risk assessment. Whether dealing with climate change or tomorrow's weather, next year's election or next season's sports team line-ups, what kind of stocks to buy or how much insurance coverage to get, we take actions based on anticipated scenarios. Dan's latest bestseller, Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction (co-authored with Philip Tetlock), makes the case that pundits are notoriously inaccurate at predicting the future, and that ordinary people make better prognostications with wide-ranging information gathering, thinking probabilistically, working in teams, keeping score, and being willing to admit error and change course.

Dan first explored some of these findings in Future Babble, which Harvard's Steven Pinker called "Required reading for journalists, politicians, academics, and anyone who listens to them." And in his seminal book on risk perception, Risk: The Science and Politics of Fear, he examined fear of what might happen in the future, and its influence on behaviour. Published in 11 countries and 7 languages, it has been praised for its lucid analysis of how psychology and social processes cause judgment errors based on unwarranted fear — or misplaced fearlessness.

In 2016, Gardner became an advisor to the Prime Minister of Canada. Previously, he spent 17 years in newspaper journalism, where his work won every major award, including the National Newspaper Award, the Michener Award, and the Canadian Association of Journalists Award. Trained in history and law, Gardner worked as a policy adviser to the Premier of Ontario before turning to journalism. His books have been published in 21 countries and 17 languages.

Dan has lectured widely on forecasting and risk for governments and businesses such as Google and Siemens, insurance companies and venture capital firms. He holds degrees in law and history.

Books

Superforecasting

The Art and Science of Prediction

Philip E. Tetlock and Dan Gardner

Everyone would benefit from seeing further into the future, whether buying stocks, crafting policy, launching a new product, or simply planning the week’s meals. Unfortunately, people tend to be terrible forecasters. As Wharton professor Philip Tetlock showed in a landmark 2005 study, even experts’ predictions are only slightly better than chance. However, an important and underreported conclusion of that study was that some experts do have real foresight, and Tetlock has spent the past decade trying to figure out why. What makes some people so good? And can this talent be taught?

In Superforecasting, Tetlock and coauthor Dan Gardner offer a masterwork on prediction, drawing on decades of research and the results of a massive, government-funded forecasting tournament. The Good Judgment Project involves tens of thousands of ordinary people — including a Brooklyn filmmaker, a retired pipe installer, and a former ballroom dancer—who set out to forecast global events. Some of the volunteers have turned out to be astonishingly good. They’ve beaten other benchmarks, competitors, and prediction markets. They’ve even beaten the collective judgment of intelligence analysts with access to classified information. They are "superforecasters."

In this groundbreaking and accessible book, Tetlock and Gardner show us how we can learn from this elite group. Weaving together stories of forecasting successes (the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound) and failures (the Bay of Pigs) and interviews with a range of high-level decision makers, from David Petraeus to Robert Rubin, they show that good forecasting doesn’t require powerful computers or arcane methods. It involves gathering evidence from a variety of sources, thinking probabilistically, working in teams, keeping score, and being willing to admit error and change course. Superforecasting offers the first demonstrably effective way to improve our ability to predict the future — whether in business, finance, politics, international affairs, or daily life — and is destined to become a modern classic.

Random House Books (7 April 2016)
Random House Books (24 Sept. 2015)

Review

Is Forecasting A General Skill set? — Fisher Investments MarektMinder
'Mindware' and 'Superforecasting'The New York Times Sunday Book Review SuperforecastingKirkus Reviews

Praise

A New York Times Editors' Choice
A Washington Post Bestseller
Longlisted for the Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award

“The material in Superforecasting is new, and includes a compendium of best practices for prediction… The accuracy that ordinary people regularly attained through their meticulous application did amaze me… [It offers] us all an opportunity to understand and react more intelligently to the confusing world around us.”
New York Times Book Review

"Tetlock's thesis is that politics and human affairs are not inscrutable mysteries. Instead, they are a bit like weather forecasting, where short-term predictions are possible and reasonably accurate... The techniques and habits of mind set out in this book are a gift to anyone who has to think about what the future might bring. In other words, to everyone."
The Economist

"Just as modern medicine began when a farsighted few began to collect data and keep track of outcomes, to trust objective 'scoring' over their own intuitions, it's time now for similar demands to be made of the experts who lead public opinion. It's time for evidence-based forecasting."
The Washington Post

"One of Tetlock's key points is that these aren't innate skills: they can be both taught and learned... Tetlock's 'Ten Commandments For Aspiring Superforecasters' should probably have a place of honor in most business meeting rooms."
Forbes

"The key to becoming a better forecaster, if not a super one, according to Tetlock is the same as any other endeavor: practice, practice, practice."
The Street

"In this captivating book, Tetlock argues that success is all about the approach: foresight is not a gift but rather a product of a particular way of thinking... In each chapter, the author augments his research with compelling interviews, anecdotes, and historical context, using accessible real-world examples to frame what could otherwise be dense subject matter. His writing is so engaging and his argument so tantalizing, readers will quickly be drawn into the challenge - in the appendix, the author provides a concise training manual to do just that. A must-read field guide for the intellectually curious."
Kirkus Reviews, starred

"Tetlock and Gardner believe anyone can improve their forecasting ability by learning from the way they work. If that's true, people in business and finance who make an effort to do so have a lot to gain — and those who don't, much to lose."
The Financial Post

"Superforecasting is a very good book. In fact it is essential reading — which I have never said in any of my previous MT reviews... It should be on every manager's and investor's reading list around the topics du jour of decision-making, prediction and behavioural economics."
Management Today

"I've been hard on social science, even suggesting that 'social science' is an oxymoron. I noted, however, that social science has enormous potential, especially when it combines 'rigorous empiricism with a resistance to absolute answers.' The work of Philip Tetlock possesses these qualities."
Scientific American

"One of the best books I've read this year... Superforecasting is a must read book."
Seeking Alpha

"Keen to show that not all forecasting is a flop, Tetlock has conducted a new experiment that shows how you can make good forecasts, ones that routinely improve on predictions made by even the most well-informed expert. The book is full of excellent advice — it is the best thing I have read on predictions, which is a subject I am keen on... Gardner has turned the research into readable examples and a flowing text, without losing rigour... This book shows that you can be better at forecasting."
The Times of London

"We now expect every medicine to be tested before it is used. We ought to expect that everybody who aspires to high office is trained to understand why they are so likely to make mistakes forecasting complex events... Politics is harder than physics but Tetlock has shown that it doesn't have to be like astrology."
The Spectator

“Philip Tetlock is the world expert on a vital subject. Superforecasting is the wonderful story of how he and his research team got ordinary people to beat experts in a very serious game. It is also a manual for thinking clearly in an uncertain world. Read it.”
— Daniel Kahneman, winner of the Nobel Prize and author of Thinking, Fast and Slow

“The best way to know if an idea is right is to see if it predicts the future. But which ideas, which methods, which people have a track record of non-obvious predictions vindicated by the course of events? The answers will surprise you, and they have radical implications for politics, policy, journalism, education, and even epistemology—how we can best gain knowledge about the world. The casual style of Superforecasting belies the profundity of its message.”
— Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of The Better Angels of Our Nature

“In this accessible and lively book, Tetlock and Gardner recognize the centrality of probabilistic thinking to sound forecasting. Whether you are a policymaker or anyone else who wants to approach decisions with great rigor, Superforecasting will serve as a highly useful guide.”
— Robert E. Rubin, Former U.S. Treasury Secretary

“How well can we predict the future, really? There is no better way to answer that question than to read this book. You will come away disillusioned about the ability of experts, but also enlightened about how the best forecasters do it — and maybe even hopeful about your own prospects.”
— Tyler Cowen, Director of the George Mason University Mercatus Center and author of Average Is Over

“For thousands of years, people have listened to those who foretold the future with confidence and little accountability. In this book, Tetlock and Gardner free us from our foolishness. Full of great stories and simple statistics, Superforecasting gives us a new way of thinking about the complexity of the world, the limitations of our minds, and why some people can consistently outpredict a dart-throwing chimp. Tetlock’s research has the potential to revolutionize foreign policy, economic policy, and your own day-to-day decisions.”
— Jonathan Haidt, New York University Stern School of Business, and author of The Righteous Mind

Superforecasting is a rare book that will make you smarter and wiser. One of the giants of behavioral science reveals how to improve at predicting the future.”
— Adam Grant, New York Times bestselling author of Give and Take

“Good judgment and good forecasting are rare, but they turn out to be made of teachable skills. By forcing forecasters to compete, Tetlock discovered what the skills are and how they work, and this book teaches the ability to any interested reader.”
— Stewart Brand, President, The Long Now Foundation

“Philip Tetlock is renowned for demonstrating that most experts are no better than ‘dart-throwing monkeys’ at predicting elections, wars, economic collapses and other events. In his brilliant new book, Tetlock offers a much more hopeful message, based once again on his own ground-breaking research. He shows that certain people can forecast events with accuracy much better than chance — and so, perhaps, can the rest of us, if we emulate the critical thinking of these ‘superforecasters.’ The self-empowerment genre doesn’t get any smarter and more sophisticated than this.”
— John Horgan, Director, Center for Science Writings, Stevens Institute of Technology

Superforecasting is the rare book that is both scholarly and engaging. The lessons are scientific, compelling, and enormously practical. Anyone who is in the forecasting business — and that’s all of us — should drop what they are doing and read it.”
— Michael J. Mauboussin, Head of Global Financial Strategies, Credit Suisse

“There isn’t a social scientist in the world I admire more than Phil Tetlock.”
— Tim Harford, author of The Undercover Economist

“From the Oracle of Delphi to medieval astrologers to modern overconfident experts, forecasters have been either deluded or fraudulent. For the first time, Superforecasting reveals the secret of making honest, reliable, effective, useful judgments about the future.”
— Aaron Brown, Chief Risk Officer of AQR Capital Management and author of The Poker Face of Wall Street

“Socrates had the insight in ‘know thyself,’ Kahneman delivered the science in Thinking, Fast and Slow, and now Tetlock has something we can all apply in Superforecasting.”
— Juan Luis Perez, Global Head of UBS Group Research

Future Babble

Why Pundits Are Hedgehogs and Foxes Know Best

Dan Gardner

We are awash in predictions. In newspapers, blogs, and books; on radio and television. Every day experts tell us how the economy will perform next year, if housing sales will grow or shrink, and who will win the next election. Predictions are offered about the climate, food, technology, and the world our grandchildren will inhabit. And we can't get enough of it.

Drawing on research in cognitive psychology, political science, and behavioral economics, award-winning journalist Dan Gardner explores our obsession with the future. He shows how famous pundits, "hedgehogs" who stick to one big idea no matter how circumstances change, become expert at explaining away predictions that are wrong while "foxes," who are more equivocal in their judgments, are simply more accurate.

Virgin Books (5 May 2011)

The Science of Fear

How the Culture of Fear Manipulates Your Brain

Dan Gardner

From terror attacks to bursting real estate bubbles, from crystal meth epidemics to online sexual predators and poisonous toys from China, our list of fears seems to be exploding. Yet we are the safest and healthiest humans in history. Why are we so worried?

The Science of Fear is an introduction to the new brain science of risk, dissecting the fears that misguide and manipulate us every day. Award-winning journalist Daniel Gardner demonstrates how irrational fear springs from the ways humans miscalculate risks based on our hunter-gatherer brains. With the exclusive cooperation of risk-science pioneer Paul Slovic and other leading experts, Gardner reveals how our "gut" reactions lead us astray. Understanding our irrational fears frees us from political and corporate manipulation, and makes our choices better, and our lives braver.

Plume Books; Reprint edition (30 Jun. 2009)

Risk

The Science and Politics of Fear

Dan Gardner

We are the safest humans who ever lived — the statistics prove it. And yet the media tells a different story with its warnings and scare stories. How is it possible that anxiety has become the stuff of daily life? In this ground-breaking, compulsively readable book, Dan Gardner shows how our flawed strategies for perceiving risk influence our lives, often with unforeseen and sometimes — tragic consequences. He throws light on our paranoia about everything from pedophiles to terrorism and reveals how the most significant threats are actually the mundane risks to which we pay little attention. Speaking to psychologists and scientists, as well as looking at the influence of the media and politicians, Gardner uncovers one of the central puzzles of our time: why are the safest people in history living in a culture of fear?

Virgin Books (1 Jan. 2009)

Topics

Dan tailors each presentation to the needs of his audience and is not limited to the topics we have listed below. These are subjects that have proven valuable to customers in the past and are meant only to suggest his range and interests. Please ask us about any subject that interests you; we are sure that we can accommodate you.

From Forecasting to Superforecasting

We are all forecasters. The important decisions we make – from investing to business to the houses we buy and the politicians we vote for – are informed by judgments about how the future will unfold. Sometimes experts help us draw conclusions. Sometimes we decide on our own. Either way, these judgments are forecasts. If they are good, our decisions are likely to be good. And if they are bad … we’re in trouble. In this provocative presentation, based on his New York Times bestseller, Dan Gardner explores the style of thinking most likely to deliver accurate forecasts. With effort and practice, we can all become better forecasters. Some of us may even become superforecasters.

Forecasting for Organizations

Corporations and governments spend fortunes on forecasting every year. Many have their own in-house forecasting departments. How good is all this forecasting? In most cases, it has never been rigorously tested, so no one really knows. Even the CIA and other agencies of the US intelligence community, which spend billions of dollars each year on forecasting, and whose forecasting informs the most important decisions made by the White House, have not bothered to determine how good all that forecasting is.

This strange reality has been defended on the grounds that this sort of forecasting — unlike, say, weather forecasting — cannot really be tested for accuracy. But that’s not true. The Wharton psychologist (and co-author of Superforecasting) Philip Tetlock has proven that it can be. And it must be. Clear feedback is essential to improving anything we do and forecasting is no exception. Without testing, forecasting cannot improve. With testing, huge gains are possible. This presentation looks at what it takes for organizations to get serious about forecasting.

Frightened by Shadows

We are by far the safest, healthiest, and wealthiest people who ever lived. But we sure don’t act like it. If we are so safe, why are we so afraid? Gardner demonstrates that the media’s portrayal of the risks we face is consistently wrong. He explains how politicians, activists and corporations promote fear to win votes, generate support and make money. And he delves into the latest scientific research to explain how the human brain decides what is worth worrying about and what is not, and why it is often wrong.

Getting Risk Right

Research shows people routinely get risk wrong. We worry about things we shouldn’t. We don’t worry about things we should. And we swing from complacency to panic, and back again. The result is one bad decision after another — with costs measured in lost dollars, health, and peace of mind. Why does this happen? Gardner delves into cognitive and social psychology to explain where our perceptions of risk come from and why they so often don’t match reality. Understanding how we form perceptions, and how they can go wrong, is the indispensable first step to making better decisions about risk.

Harnessing the Full Power of Language

Language always works on multiple levels. Yes, there are the words we see, the words we hear, the words defined in the dictionary. But that’s only one dimension of language. As neuroscience and psychology have revealed, language has many other dimensions and all influence what people perceive, feel, and decide. Drawing on the latest scientific research and his own long experience in the business of communication, Gardner explains how to harness the full power of language.

Videos

Future Babble: Why Expert Predictions Fail

Feedback

A privately owned investment manager:
Dan was well received. It was a pleasure having him speak at our conference.

An American manufacturer of glass and ceramics:
Everything was absolutely wonderful. Daniel’s presentation was very inspirational.