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216 × 138 × 30 mm
296 pages
10 Aug 2020

Seeing into the Future A Short History of Prediction Martin van Creveld

If there is anything that distinguishes us from animals, it is our ability to understand that such a thing as the future exists and our willingness to try and look into it.

But how have people through the ages gone about making predictions? What were their underlying assumptions, and what methods did they use? Have increased computer power and the newest algorithms improved our success in anticipating the future, or are we still only as good (or as bad) at it as our ancestors?

From the ancients watching the flight of birds to the murky activities of Google and Facebook today, Seeing into the Future gives us an insight into the past, present and future of prediction.

‘What will the weather be like tomorrow, next week, next year? Will there be another war, famine, global pandemic? Will the stock market rise or fall? In Seeing into the Future, military historian and theorist Martin van Creveld provides an overview of some of the myriad methods humans have devised over the millennia to foretell what is to come, from the ancients’ use of prophecy and astrology to today’s mathematical algorithms. In addition to delving into when, where, why, and how those techniques originated, he discusses such questions as why prediction is so difficult, whether modern humans are any better at making predictions than our ancestors were, and whether knowing the future is a good thing.’ — Physics Today

‘Martin van Creveld’s Seeing into the Future is a widely informed and deeply thoughtful examination of a critical area of human concern. Anyone seeking insight into the futurology and forecasting, with its manifold involvements in religion, sociology, science, and practical affairs will profit from this instructive and insightful work.’ — Dr Nicholas Rescher, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, University of Pittsburgh

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Martin van Creveld is Professor Emeritus at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, and the author of many books including Conscience: A Biography (Reaktion, 2015), Wargames: From Gladiators to Gigabytes (2013) and The Privileged Sex (2013).

Part I: A Mysterious Journey
1 A Villain of a Magician
2 In the Name of the Lord
3 Oracles, Pythias and Sibyls
4 A Dream to Remember
5 Consulting the Dead

Part II: Be Sober and Reasonable
6 Searching the Heavens
7 Clear and Manifest
8 On Birds, Livers and Sacrifices
9 The Magic of Numbers
10 Decoding the Bible

Part III: Enter Modernity
11 From Patterns to Cycles
12 With Hegel on the Brain
13 Ask, and You’ll Be Answered
14 The Most Powerful Tools
15 War Games Here, War Games There

Part IV: The Lord of the Universe
16 Looking Backward
17 Why is Prediction So Difficult?
18 Is Our Game Improving?
19 A World Without Uncertainty?

Further Reading