Characteristics of Superforecasters and How to Predict the Future Like They do

Published by Klint Ciriaco on

Credit: pixabay@nvodicka

The title of a Superforcaster is bestowed upon individuals in the Good Judgment Project who consistently made at least 100 accurate predictions. The Good Judgment Project is a project created to “harness the wisdom of the crowd” to forecast world events. 

I was intrigued when I heard of Superforecasters and wanted to know more about their characteristics and maybe learn about their skills so I can use them in my own life. After reading the book, I’ve gained valuable insights that I can use. 

Here they are:

Characteristics of Forecasters

  1. They have above average intelligence but they’re not geniuses.

They’re not quite at Einstein’s level. The Superforecasting authors say that if you can read the book with little to no effort, you have a shot at becoming a Superforecaster. 

  1. They come from all walks of life 

They’re farmers, lawyers, movie producers, engineers, etc. 

  1. They have a growth mindset 

They believe that they can solve hard problems and have room for growth. In fact, they enjoy hard challenges and welcome them with open arms.

  1. They’re humble, non-deterministic, and cautious

They know that there is no such thing as certainty. The world is filled with unknown variables which would affect their forecasts. They don’t let ego get in the way so they err on the side of caution. That said…

  1. They update their beliefs based on new information

They care more about being right instead of believing they’re right. If new evidence comes out, they update their predictions for a more accurate forecast. 

  1. They can suspend their biases to make an accurate prediction

They know that their perspective and opinions is just one angle of seeing a problem. So, being emotionally attached to their beliefs isn’t an optimal way to make predictions. 

  1. They’re comfortable with numbers

Probability and statistics is their friend. 

  1. They work in teams

Having teammates pokes holes in their logic and reasoning so they can update them, hear more perspective so they can view a problem from multiple angles, and get support in areas they lack. 

So how do they make predictions?

First of all, They Keep Score Of Their Forecasts

Unlike pundits who use vague verbiage to make forecasts and interpret the outcome in their favor, Superforecasters use a number called Brier Score. There’s no room for interpretation with a Brier Score. Either their forecast is correct or not. 

The Brier Score is set up to penalize a forecaster if their prediction is wrong and reward them for getting it right. You can read more about it on the Good Judgment Open page

They then Start With An Outside View

For example, let’s say the question asked in the tournament is this: “Will there be a robbery in LA in the next 30 days?” 

You would be tempted to say something along the lines of, “Well, everyone’s leaving that place, businesses are boarded up, and people are getting desperate. So yeah, there will be a robbery in the next 30 days” 

A Superforecaster would start differently. He’ll most likely say, “In the past 10 years, there were on average, 190 robberies per year in LA. Divide 190 by 12, you’ll get 15.85 robberies per month. There are still 30 days left until the end of this forecast so 30 days/360 days x 15.85 robberies = 1.320. In other words, there’s 100.32% chances of a robbery happening in the next 30 days (someone, correct my math if I got this wrong :). 

They Then Proceed with an Inside View Analysis

Using an outside view analysis is just their starting point – their baseline if you will. Once they have that, they’ll proceed to do their research. They can be ultra news junkies because they know that having information from multiple perspectives can help them calibrate their forecasts. That said, they…

Ask Feedback from Their Teammates

Superforecasters are phenomenal by themselves, but their forecasts become more accurate when they team up. They practice constructive disagreement which helps them view their problems from different viewpoints. 

They Update their Forecasts Based on New Information

The forecasting questions each have an end date. Superforecasters are free to change their forecasts until that date. It’s actually crazy how much updating they do. One forecaster mentioned in the book updated his forecast like 50 times which made his prediction more calibrated. 

Practical Applications

Predicting the big stuff like wars and outbreaks is cool, but I find forecasting more helpful in everyday situations. Here are some examples: 

  • Based on what I know about my boss, will he shut down my idea or not? 
  • Based on my offer, will the investor accept it or not? 
  • Will this article get at least 1,000 views by December 1, 2021? 
  • It’s Tuesday at 7am. Will there be another accident on I-25? 
  • Will my video get at least 70% audience retention after 1 week of posting? 

In a way, this is an exercise that helps me learn “hindsight in the moment” kind of thinking. It helps me make better decisions and even help me prepare for the obstacles that I might encounter down the road.