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Review of Forewarned by Paul Goodwin


J. Scott Armstrong


Forewarned will be available on Amazon in June 2018. The subtitle, A Sceptic’s Guide to Prediction” fits with my belief that progress in science depends heavily on skeptics. Over the past century, many new and useful methods have been discovered and tested by skeptics. Unfortunately, few organizations are using these methods. This present a wonderful opportunity for those who want to gain a competitive advantage.


I have known Paul Goodwin since he was involved with his PhD thesis on forecasting methods, and he has devoted his long career primarily to forecasting problems and solutions. In my view, he is one of the few people who could write such a book. His research covers all useful scientific forecasting methods, and he has done research and is also familiar with the experimental research on which forecasting methods work best in which situations. Add to this, he is an excellent writer. He sets up the discussions with interesting stories, often based on his consulting experience.  


He describes traditional approaches to problems along with approaches by skeptics. The approaches are discussed in an impartial manner allowing readers to draw their own conclusions, given the evidence. I have spent over half a century on forecasting and I found Goodwin’s descriptions of the methods to be clear, accurate, and up-to-date. Moreover, I learned some new things. 


His example covers many important facets of life. For example, university professors might find it interesting that a Harvard University research study (Ambady and Rosenthal, 1993) “found that, after watching silent video clips of teachers in front of their classes, lasting between two and ten seconds, complete strangers could accurately predict what students’ ratings of their teachers would be at the end of the semester.” Doesn’t that indicate a problem for how universities evaluate professors?


Goodwin supports the findings he discusses with over 300 references in his “Notes”. This will allow you to follow-up on forecasting methods that are new to you. And much will be new and useful to you and perhaps upsetting. You have been forewarned.


Once I got started this book, I was swept along. My copy is filled with notes and underlining. This is a book with many useful scientific findings.


In the interest of full disclosure, Paul Goodwin is a colleague, friend, and fellow skeptic. 


J. Scott Armstrong, Professor, University of Pennsylvania