9-13 Oct 2017
14 Oct 2017

5 rules for predicting sociopolitical outcomes

Here are five handy rules every European news junkie should know in order to accurately forecast the future. Each rule is accompanied by a practical exercise based on this week’s most eye-catching Newsmavens headlines.

Lea Berriault
Lea Berriault NewsMavens, Europe
5 rules for predicting sociopolitical outcomes - NewsMavens
Eight ball rack. Sean McLean/Wikicommons

We recommend that you write your answers on a public platform -- that way you’ll get to brag about your results later. Also, set a phone alarm for October 2028 to remind you to check if your predictions were correct.

Rule 1 -- Be wrong often

No one is endowed with the capacity to accurately and coherently describe all of the future. In hindsight, it will turn out that some people were right about some things. This is the best you can hope for. And for the odds to be in your favor, you need to make loads of predictions.

Practical exercise: predicting the unpredictable.

A) Read this summary of a study discussing the viability of the nation-state as a regulator of the economy.

B) Write a short prediction on the role of the nation state in regulating the economy for the decade ahead. It is notoriously difficult to predict the impact of the economy on global political trends. Have a go at it and laugh later when you realize how wrong you were.

Rule 2 -- Be brave

You are entitled to having an opinion on matters about which you are completely ignorant. If there is one thing history teaches us, it’s that experts are (almost) always wrong. Your chances are just as good as any political scientist out there.

Practical exercise: predicting things you know nothing about.

A) Read about the gradual decline of Hungary’s freedom of press.*

B)  Map out the future of Hungarian media up until 2028, taking into account potential new media entities. If you foresee a reversal of the current trend, give a year (or a month, if you’re feeling adventurous).

*If you are Hungarian/well-versed in Hungarian politics, read this and map out the influence of Catholicism on Polish politics for the next ten years.

Rule 3 -- Be observant

While the over-abundance of data we live in can overwhelm a well-meaning fortune-teller, it provides us with a wealth of case studies. When evaluating a particular situation, look for similar instances and draw conclusions.

Practical exercise: establishing patterns

A) Read this overview of the current stalemate between the EU and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

B) Study the path to EU accession for various countries (Croatia, Romania, and Bulgaria are obvious choices, but if you have enough time, look at the 2004 accession round as well). Predict Bosnia and Herzegovina’s road to EU accession based on earlier cases.

Rule 4 -- Be pessimistic

The world is not all rainbows and unicorns. Outcomes are often bound by the resources available, and pies are very seldom sliced evenly. Take this fact into account when evaluating any resource-based conflict.

Practical exercise: assessing zero-sum situations

A) Read about this week’s row between the Italian government, workers unions and a large steel consortium.

B) predict the losses and gains of each side. Remember that the gain of one side must balance the loss of the other.

Rule 5 -- Be dystopian, even

Orwell was right about so many things that we now have an adjective to describe the things about which Orwell was right. Not to say that things always go wrong, but when they do go wrong, they often go apocalyptically wrong. Hence, bet on the worst.

Practical exercise: forecasting the impact of a disaster

A) Read this summary of the latest developments in the Brexit negotiations.

B) Make a list of the consequences of the Brexit vote. Be as Orwellian as possible.

Good luck!

Lea Berriault

Managing Editor

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