Humans are alone in the animal kingdom as worriers. We are the only ones who expend tremendous amounts of time, energy and resources trying to know and understand our futures before they happen. The Prediction Project is a coordinated investigation of the history of prediction, beginning with Ancient Mesopotamians reading signs in sheep entrails, and ending with modern computer simulations of climate, health, wealth, and the fate of our Universe.
What are the "four parts" of the Prediction Project?
As our project map shows, we like to think of The Prediction Project's content as arranged into four inter-connected parts: Essentials (ideas common across all predictive systems); Omens, Oracles and Prophecies (focusing mostly on systems with ancient origins); The Rise of Theory (associated with the rise of so-called "scientific" prediction); and Modern Prediction (focusing on the newest predictive systems).
"Essentials" refer to core concepts and questions that span predictive systems across time and space. The most important essential in our project is called the "Framework for Predictive Systems." Other essentials include "The Padua Rainbow" used to explain the relationship of data-driven predictions to explanation, and an interactive game for demonstrating of the meaning of statistical uncertainty.
Every culture, across every habitable continent and thousands of years, seems to devise different ways to predict the future. From the ancient Babylonian, Chinese, and Egyptian dynasties, through transformations in the Greek and Roman worlds, across oceans to the Mesoamerican civilizations, and back to Yorubaland of West Africa, humans have been asking the same questions as long as history has been recorded. As they attempted to answer these questions, people developed predictive systems that sought to foretell what lay ahead. In this portion of the course, explore a portion of the fascinating and vast array of ancient divinatory prediction methods. By first learning about how humans have always predicted, gain insight into prediction as a human venture to deepen your understanding of how we predict today and how you use prediction in your own life.
In this portion of the course, learn how humanity moved from mystical divination practices to genuine, scientific theory to explain natural phenomena. From Newton’s gravity to the historic problem of longitude to the advent of modern epidemiology, predictive practices have evolved over years or even centuries from the observation and accumulation of data into full blown theoretical systems. Watch as broad questions about nature, movement, and the universe become refined with time and sparks of human brilliance into precise and elegant theories of nature in the Path to Newton. Learn about the rise of modern epidemiology in the spellbinding story of John Snow and London’s Cholera Outbreak of 1854. Lastly, discover how humanity managed to overcome the greatest intellectual challenge of the time during the age of exploration -- how to measure longitude at sea -- in the interactive “Lost Without Longitude.”
The final section of PredictionX examines a variety of areas in modern prediction. Learners will be able to view modern prediction through the lens of the history of human efforts to understand the future from nature divination all the way to Artificial Intelligence and complex simulations at the cutting edge of science today. Importantly, see how the quantification of uncertainty plays a central role across contemporary scientific disciplines in a manner unthinkable in previous eras.