Douglas Carswell

21 DEC 2016

Pundits: please stop making predictions

Pundits are already busy already telling us what to expect in 2017. But hold on. Aren't these the same people who confidently told us Brexit and Trump would never happen this time last year?

One of the lessons of 2016 has to be not to put faith in "expert" soothsayers. Pollsters, economists, and politicians formed a consensus about the likelihood of Brexit – and the consequences of a Leave vote. They were wrong about both.

Part of the error was down to groupthink. The data that comes out political and economic models reflects the data that goes in. Most of the people building these models started with the same shared assumptions – and never took any challenge to them seriously. It's no wonder the consensus was wrong.

But it's also about the limits of possible knowledge. Sixty-five million people can't be reduced to data points in a statistical model, let alone understood by commentators who rarely set foot outside the M25.

Next year, it would be nice to see a little more epistemic humility from would-be forecasters. I'm not expecting that – but I'd happily be proved wrong.

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