Highly Complex Systems  by Wayne M. Angel, Ph.D.

About This Site - The It-Ain't-So Problem




The Quest - A Preface

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"It is difficult to forecast, especially the future" is one of those contagious phrases whose origin has long past from my memory.  I do know I heard it from someone. 

The origin of the phrase "Nonetheless we need not, and sometimes must not, go into the future believing that which is not true" is a modification of a quote from Will Rogers, ďIt ain't what we don't know that will cause us problem's, it's what we know that ain't so."

When we make a decision, if we are aware of our potential for error and therefore the uncertainty of outcome, we are cautious and generally make contingent plans.  The stronger our belief is in something-that-is-not-true the greater the potential for a serious negative consequence.  The more our decision affects the lives of others the greater the risk of catastrophe affecting many others. 

The purpose of the forecasting tools discussed here is not so much to predict what will be, but to eliminate as much as possible our belief in outcomes that are not likely.  I will address what can and cannot be predicted and with what accuracy.  Any forecast without a sound estimate of its accuracy is of no value.  Nonetheless most failures are not from a failure to predict what will be, but rather from predicting that which will not or cannot be.


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