If you want to know how forecasting can make you happy, try ordering the Soup of the Day without asking what it is. Trust me on this, the not knowing adds to the flavour when it arrives. Or trust the findings of psychologists Tim Wilson and Daniel Gilbert who found that instilling a sense of uncertainty in people intensified their experience of film clips.

Uncertainty

In these experiments, the uncertainty instilled in subjects was entirely unrelated to the films. So if you want a more flavoursome soup, you don’t actually have to uncertainise the soup itself. Eating your soup on a first date might do the trick just as well.

Excuse me, I can hear you say, but why exactly are you blathering on about soup? Good question. I’d better explain myself.

Like every member of my species, I have something of a tortured relationship with uncertainty. It is both a fact of life and something I am hardwired to try to remove wherever I find it. Ultimately I want it gone, but I feel most alive when it is there and I’m wrestling with it. It goes against my nature to willingly not know what the Soup of the Day is. But it can bring results.

Engaging in my little soup-based mind games helps, ever so slightly, to understand life’s larger and more daunting uncertainties and do those things that will make me happiest. Similarly, forecasting on the almanis platform raises my daily exposure to the world’s uncertainty and helps make me happier chappie. No, really. As with soup, so with life. As no one else ever said. Probably.

My soup game starts with a choice to create uncertainty. Similarly, being a good forecaster requires a decision to regularly absorb diverse and enlightened sources of information and to constantly question and reassess their own interpretations of events. Unlike the soup example though, exposure to this type uncertainty can be tough. If, for instance, your livelihood is being threatened by the forces of globalisation and/or new technology, it’ll be hard, painful even, to keep an open mind. Just shutting down and listening to the sweet sound of a politician promising to cancel the modern world might seem, well, a little easier. But is easier happier?

Try this experiment. Go ask a question to someone who is absolutely convinced on a pressing issue that splits society as a whole. Such issues (and such people) aren’t exactly hard to find these days. Then ask the same question of a person who is engaged but essentially unaligned. You can probably imagine the outcome.

The first response will be convinced, angry and glad of the chance to vent. The second will probably involve some uncomfortable squirming, an attempt to explain current thinking and followed up by a stupid joke by way of an apology for failing to make much sense.

One is convinced, angry and running on auto-pilot. The other is uncertain, struggling, engaging and basically a little happier.

Looking for truths – and forecasting is about the truth – often means confronting them first. The most painful among these truths, from my experience, is the simple and unfaltering fact that the world is a deeply uncertain place in which to foster dreams and ambitions. Embracing this uncertainty is tough, we’re designed to resist it, but it brings rewards. Engaging in it makes us a bit more alive and makes our soup taste of more. Some say it can even make us more likely to try new and enjoyable things. And it might just help us to better navigate life’s uncertainties.

It’s tough to do, in other words, but worthwhile. Here at almanis, bless us, we’re making it easier for you. First we’ve turned it all into a game with points and leaderboards. We’ve made it 100% free to use and it always will be. Then we hand out cash prizes and can certify your accuracy to add to your CV.

And remember, if you don’t like where things are headed, being an accurate and impartial forecaster isn’t going to prevent you from being an agent of change in your spare time.

1 comment

  1. Chris Clark

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/apr/04/uncertainty-stressful-research-neuroscience?CMP=soc_568#comment-71863518

    Marc Lewis in The Guardian on “Why We’re Hardwired to Hate Uncertainty”. Reporting on some fascination new research in the field. He really nails the human stress response, but doesn’t go too far into the potential benefits.

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