2 min readOct 10, 2020


Data Science

Prediction: 10 Quotes

“The aim of every science is foresight. For the laws of established observation of phenomena are generally employed to foresee their succession. All men, however little advanced make true predictions, which are always based on the same principle, the knowledge of the future from the past.” (Auguste Compte, “Plan des travaux scientifiques nécessaires pour réorganiser la société”, 1822)

“No matter how solidly founded a prediction may appear to us, we are never absolutely sure that experiment will not contradict it, if we undertake to verify it . […] It is far better to foresee even without certainty than not to foresee at all.” (Henri Poincaré, “The Foundations of Science”, 1913)

“[…] the statistical prediction of the future from the past cannot be generally valid, because whatever is future to any given past, is in tum past for some future. That is, whoever continually revises his judgment of the probability of a statistical generalization by its successively observed verifications and failures, cannot fail to make more successful predictions than if he should disregard the past in his anticipation of the future. This might be called the ‘Principle of statistical accumulation’.” (Clarence I Lewis, “Mind and the World-Order: Outline of a Theory of Knowledge”, 1929)

“Factual science may collect statistics, and make charts. But its predictions are, as has been well said, but past history reversed.” (John Dewey, “Art as Experience”, 1934)

“It is never possible to predict a physical occurrence with unlimited precision.” (Max Planck, “A Scientific Autobiography”, 1949)

“[…] All predictions are statistical, but some predictions have such a high probability that one tends to regard them as certain.” (Marshall J Walker, “The Nature of Scientific Thought”, 1963)

“The moment you forecast you know you’re going to be wrong, you just don’t know when and in which direction.” (Edgar R Fiedler, 1977)

“Complexity carries with it a lack of predictability different to that of chaotic systems, i.e. sensitivity to initial conditions. In the case of complexity, the lack of predictability is due to relevant interactions and novel information created by them.” (Carlos Gershenson, “Understanding Complex Systems”, 2011)

“The illusion that we understand the past fosters overconfidence in our ability to predict the future.” (Daniel Kahneman, “Thinking, Fast and Slow”, 2011)

“Without precise predictability, control is impotent and almost meaningless. In other words, the lesser the predictability, the harder the entity or system is to control, and vice versa. If our universe actually operated on linear causality, with no surprises, uncertainty, or abrupt changes, all future events would be absolutely predictable in a sort of waveless orderliness.” (Lawrence K Samuels, “Defense of Chaos”, 2013)

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