Should we be praised for our predictions?
By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. April 1, 2014
Whether it’s a sporting event, the weather, or the end of the world, people love to predict the future. Some rely on the science of probability and statistics, but many predict by guessing out of speculation—and surprisingly, it’s as effective as any other method. Because when the dice are cast and the coins are flipped, chances play the largest factor in prediction. So, if you haven’t called it recently, you are bound to at some point.
We make thousands of predictions daily. We predict the arrival time of the bus, the mark we got on our exams, and the emotion we’ll feel when we see our friends at the end of the night. We get a lot of joy from predicting correctly, even though the guesses might not be in our best interest.
“The bus is always late,” you’ll say before you even leave the house. This isn’t a daring assumption compared to gambling, and it isn’t as rewarding either, but it satisfies you in the same way—if to a lesser degree. This type of prediction allows you to feel good whether the bus comes on time or not. You either called it, or find the nice surprise of a punctual bus.
People predict both out of confidence and a lack thereof; in other words, a need to cover their asses. It reduces the hurt of possible disappointment, while entertaining them lightly during mundane events. By predicting, we can make a high-stake event out of something that has little interest. Sports and awards shows are great examples of this cognitive hypothesizing. One of the teams will win, and odds are we might be able to guess it.
Uncertainty is scary, really scary. Imagine if we lived a life where we didn’t understand the concept of death; that death wasn’t an inevitable end to our lives. How differently would we live if not fearing death? But we are aware, and are therefore very capable of predicting every possible situation that will kill us, even if that means predicting the apocalypse or a new pandemic.
No matter how good at forecasting the future you might think you are, you’re powers are useless, because foresight, although it has value for yourself, is completely useless for most other people. If you are right about the apocalypse, it’s the apocalypse and we’re all dead anyways, but if there isn’t an apocalypse, then you’re a crazy, stupid person. If you called the result of a hockey game, great job! You might get a high-five from me, but it doesn’t make you superior in any way.
Predictions are made to satisfy you alone. We all have the ability to predict, so we don’t need other people to do it for us. We all like feeling smart, but when we confuse a lucky guess with knowledge, then we’re bound to misinform and tarnish our credibility. So if you think you know what you are saying, go ahead. Call it, friendo.