'We have a prediction problem. We love to predict things – and we aren't very good at it.' These are the words of the statistician superstar Nate Silver, one of the few men in the world who actually does not have a prediction problem: he correctly forecast the results of the 2012 US presidential election in all 50 states
Each December experts are asked to predict events around the world for the coming year. Many of these are blindingly obvious -- or just plain wrong. According to Silver, one of the reasons for this is the Web, which allows bad ideas to circulate until they become conventional wisdom.
In the following pages Chatham House experts look at some of the notable surprises of 2012, and ask why no one predicted them, and what we can learn.
It has been a gloomy year, but 2012 could have been so much worse: the eurozone did not implode; the US struggled to maintain political sanity; and
Take the eurozone. Exports have been steadily recovering since
In the autumn of 2011 the outlook for
Projections for the British economy were equally off the mark. In late 2011 the
Why was the recession in
Is there a lesson here? Perhaps there is, but it not just about economic forecasting. This was indeed the year when
Most importantly, 2012 was the turning point when the mantra that 'markets know best' began to be challenged. People have been questioning whether the extraordinary wealth creation of the past two decades has resulted in an increasingly unfair distribution of resources and diminishing welfare. They have been wondering whether the burden of the adjustment has also been unfairly distributed. Unless political leaders are willing to engage in an honest debate -- without any concession to populism -- then 2013 will be the year when the temperature of social discontent will become dangerously high in
Paola Subacchi is Research Director, International Economics at Chatham House
- Financial Nerve Centres at Risk of Flooding
- The Growth That Never Was
- A Gospel of Wealth
- Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super Rich
- The Cyber Menace
- Cyber Threats: Establishing the First Line of Defense
- Arming The Information Highway Patrol
- Keeping the Global Ship on Course
- Global Governance at Heart of Failed Foreign Policies
- Global Terrorism: Piles of Skulls
- When Terrorists 'Killed' in Drone Strikes Aren't Really Dead
- Stripping Down to 140 Characters
- Revolution through iDemocracy
- Test Driving The Bamboo Bone Shaker
- What Tyrants Fear Most: Social Media
- Dambisa Moyo: 'Winner Take All'
- Nuclear Weapons Could Become Obsolete
- The Moral Equivalent of Nuremberg
- Rushdie: 'Vampires Shrivel in the Sunlight'
- Q&A with Joseph Stiglitz: 'The Price of Inequality'
- Children Often the Targets of Islamic Extremists
- Education Can Replace the Loss of Hope
- United Nations Picks Wrong Education Partners
- Testing the Limits of Globalization
- We're Too Tolerant of Corruption at Home
- No Need for a Witch Hunt Over Executive Pay
- Beyond Money
- 50-Year War Against Drugs Has Failed: A New Approach is Needed
- Drugs Legalization Could Make Things Worse
- Time to Separate Drugs Policy from Crime
- Organized Crime Won't Fade Away
- Is Treating The Symptoms The Way Forward?
- Heads of State Show Lack of Faith in Own Health-Care Systems
- On Drugs and Democracy
- Financial Markets, Politics and the New Reality
- BRICs Should Focus on their Own Problems
- The Persistent Threat to Soft Targets
- The Rich Grabbing Bigger Slices of Pie
- 21 Trillion Dollars Hidden in Tax Havens
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