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The Visual Organization: Data Visualization, Big Data, and the Quest for Better Decisions by Phil Simon

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Coda: We're Just Getting Started

It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future.

—Yogi Berra

It has never been easy to predict the future, not that that fact stops many “experts” from claiming that they know where technology, the stock market, or the body politic is going. The political, business, and technology landscapes are littered with centuries of prognostications from famous experts that turned out to be spectacularly wrong. Many of these are laughable now. Perhaps my favorite comes from Ken Olson in 1977. At the time, Olson was the president, chairman, and founder of Digital Equipment Corporation, then computer industry powerhouse. He confidently stated, “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.”

Whoops.

Experts like me may be able to proffer a decent explanation of what's happening now and maybe even why. When it comes to what will happen tomorrow, however, our batting averages plummet. Scores of books and studies have confirmed as much. Wrong by David Freedman and The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver are particularly good ones.

In June 2013, I spoke to a few hundred people at a TechCocktail event in Las Vegas, Nevada. The talk, titled “I'm an Expert. Don't Trust Me,” concerned how and why experts have historically had a pretty terrible track record in making accurate predictions.* (My talk touched upon a wide array of businesses, popular TV shows, musicians, and books.) If anything, prognosticating is even more difficult today, ...

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