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On forecasts and forecasting

Inspired by a blog of Oli Barrett.

My grandfather was an actuary, so a professional mathematician in the insurance industry predicting probability of life expectancy. In a cruel irony, he died by looking the wrong way on Tottenham Court Road, which Londoners will know is a one-way street. He confirmed that nothing was coming in the direction he checked and stepped into the road, only to have a truck confirm that he had looked the wrong way and flatten him.

Was this what forecasters might call a ‘Black Swan Moment’ – an act of randomness or plain human error? I prefer to imagine that, coming in from Suffolk, he’d been aghast at London crowds that summer day (and perhaps the 1980s ladies fashions?!).

Forecasters need to stick with the streets they know.


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