Generational Dynamics: Forecasting America's Destiny Generational
 Forecasting America's Destiny ... and the World's


Generational Dynamics Web Log for 28-Jan-05
The chaotic Iraq election is only two days away

Web Log - January, 2005

The chaotic Iraq election is only two days away

The election is on Sunday, January 30, and no one has a clue what's going to happen.

Journalists, pundits, and high-priced analysts are strangely silent in their predictions about what's going to happen on Sunday, and thereafter.

The reason that's very strange is that they've had no trouble predicting things up till now. On January 9, as I wrote at the time, pundits were making all kinds of predictions. One pundit said the Sunnis won't come out to vote because they're a minority. Another said the Shi'ites won't come out to vote because they're anti-American. Another says that everyone will be too terrorized to vote. Etc., etc., etc. These predictions by pundits were completely hot air, based on nothing but wishful thinking and demented logic.

We used the word "chaotic" in the title of this article for a reason. We mean "chaotic" in the sense of Chaos Theory.

Most readers have probably heard of the "Butterfly Effect" in weather forecasting: if a butterfly in China flaps its wings, then it can start a chain reaction that leads to a hurricane in America a week or two later.

What this means is that we'll never be able to forecast the weather any better than we can today. No matter how good the science is, no matter how fast the computers are, it's mathematically impossible to predict the weather accurately for more than a few days in advance.

Exactly the same principle is true in political forecasting. Your political forecasts will never be accurate for more than a few days, no matter how good your reporting is.

That doesn't stop the journalists, pundits and high-priced analysts from making predictions anyway. After all, it's easy to get a million predictions right. Just make two million predictions. That's what the pundits do.

The Generational Dynamics methodology very carefully avoids making predictions about chaotic events. On this web site, I'm very careful never to make such predictions. Yes, it's true that I sometimes can't resist the urge to state an opinion on an upcoming chaotic event, but I always (try to remember to) use words to indicate that it isn't a prediction; so I might say that it's "likely" or "possible," or "probable."

In one article, on the six most dangerous regions of the world, I even went to the trouble of computing a specific probability (that, under certain assumptions, the probability of the "clash of civilizations" world war beginning in 2005 was about 21%, and would be slightly higher in 2006 and every year thereafter until it happened).

A little while ago, I was having an e-mail discussion with someone who runs a news web site that specifically claims to be making predictions. I finally got to the point where I pointed out to him that "what you're trying to do is impossible -- not just difficult, but mathematically impossible." He didn't bother to write back after that, so I have to assume that he just didn't want to hear that.

I gave him a couple of examples. In September, they had predicted that an American invasion of Iran to stop nuclear weapons development was "not an option." That prediction is, of course, completely ill-founded. Any of a number of "butterfly" events could turn that around. Israel might receive some specific intelligence, leading to a pinpoint bombing or an invasion with a small force. Or there might be an Iranian defector, or something suspicious in a spy satellite photo, or a drunken admission by a mullah, or a sex scandal involving an Iranian nuclear scientist.

That's what we mean by predicting chaotic political events. It's not just difficult - it's actually mathematically impossible. That's one of the things that Chaos Theory proves.

Now, contrast that prediction with a prediction that I've made repeatedly for over two years: That there wouldn't be a civil war in Iraq. What's the difference between their prediction of no invasion of Iran, and my prediction of no civil war in Iraq?

The difference is that an invasion of Iran would be a decision made by politicians, and decisions made by politicians are chaotic events.

But a civil war in Iraq is a "decision" that would come from the people, not from politicians. This distinction between decisions coming from politicians versus the people is a fundamental distinction used throughout Generational Dynamics.

When you're talking about large masses of people, behaviors and attitudes change over the generations in predictable ways that have been identified by Generational Dynamics. This means that only certain things can be predicted, but those predictions can be made with near certainty.

For over two years, this web site has been a "real-time laboratory experiment" to see if this kind of prediction works. Every prediction I've made is still on this web site, accessible from either the front page or the archives. It's been extremely successful - far more successful than any journalist, pundit or high-priced analyst that I'm aware of. (On the other hand, I don't seem to be able to make any money doing this, and they make lots of money, so compared to them, my very real victory is quite Pyrrhic.)

Incidentally, I had promised that my new book, Generational Dynamics for Historians, would be finished by now, but it's taking a little longer than expected. If you're interested in this stuff about Chaos Theory, the new book will explain how it works in detail. I've made a lot of progress in the last few weeks, and I'm hoping to have the first draft completed and posted on this web site in just one or two more weekends' work. Incidentally, if you're wondering why I've been posting in this web log a little less frequently, that's the reason - I spend every spare minute I have finishing up the book. It's taken me a little bit longer to sort out all the details and get them all written down, but with luck it shouldn't be more than a couple more weeks. (I can't predict the exact date, because it's a chaotic event, in almost every sense of the word.) (28-Jan-05) Permanent Link
Receive daily World View columns by e-mail
Donate to Generational Dynamics via PayPal

Web Log Pages

Current Web Log

Web Log Summary - 2016
Web Log Summary - 2015
Web Log Summary - 2014
Web Log Summary - 2013
Web Log Summary - 2012
Web Log Summary - 2011
Web Log Summary - 2010
Web Log Summary - 2009
Web Log Summary - 2008
Web Log Summary - 2007
Web Log Summary - 2006
Web Log Summary - 2005
Web Log Summary - 2004

Web Log - December, 2016
Web Log - November, 2016
Web Log - October, 2016
Web Log - September, 2016
Web Log - August, 2016
Web Log - July, 2016
Web Log - June, 2016
Web Log - May, 2016
Web Log - April, 2016
Web Log - March, 2016
Web Log - February, 2016
Web Log - January, 2016
Web Log - December, 2015
Web Log - November, 2015
Web Log - October, 2015
Web Log - September, 2015
Web Log - August, 2015
Web Log - July, 2015
Web Log - June, 2015
Web Log - May, 2015
Web Log - April, 2015
Web Log - March, 2015
Web Log - February, 2015
Web Log - January, 2015
Web Log - December, 2014
Web Log - November, 2014
Web Log - October, 2014
Web Log - September, 2014
Web Log - August, 2014
Web Log - July, 2014
Web Log - June, 2014
Web Log - May, 2014
Web Log - April, 2014
Web Log - March, 2014
Web Log - February, 2014
Web Log - January, 2014
Web Log - December, 2013
Web Log - November, 2013
Web Log - October, 2013
Web Log - September, 2013
Web Log - August, 2013
Web Log - July, 2013
Web Log - June, 2013
Web Log - May, 2013
Web Log - April, 2013
Web Log - March, 2013
Web Log - February, 2013
Web Log - January, 2013
Web Log - December, 2012
Web Log - November, 2012
Web Log - October, 2012
Web Log - September, 2012
Web Log - August, 2012
Web Log - July, 2012
Web Log - June, 2012
Web Log - May, 2012
Web Log - April, 2012
Web Log - March, 2012
Web Log - February, 2012
Web Log - January, 2012
Web Log - December, 2011
Web Log - November, 2011
Web Log - October, 2011
Web Log - September, 2011
Web Log - August, 2011
Web Log - July, 2011
Web Log - June, 2011
Web Log - May, 2011
Web Log - April, 2011
Web Log - March, 2011
Web Log - February, 2011
Web Log - January, 2011
Web Log - December, 2010
Web Log - November, 2010
Web Log - October, 2010
Web Log - September, 2010
Web Log - August, 2010
Web Log - July, 2010
Web Log - June, 2010
Web Log - May, 2010
Web Log - April, 2010
Web Log - March, 2010
Web Log - February, 2010
Web Log - January, 2010
Web Log - December, 2009
Web Log - November, 2009
Web Log - October, 2009
Web Log - September, 2009
Web Log - August, 2009
Web Log - July, 2009
Web Log - June, 2009
Web Log - May, 2009
Web Log - April, 2009
Web Log - March, 2009
Web Log - February, 2009
Web Log - January, 2009
Web Log - December, 2008
Web Log - November, 2008
Web Log - October, 2008
Web Log - September, 2008
Web Log - August, 2008
Web Log - July, 2008
Web Log - June, 2008
Web Log - May, 2008
Web Log - April, 2008
Web Log - March, 2008
Web Log - February, 2008
Web Log - January, 2008
Web Log - December, 2007
Web Log - November, 2007
Web Log - October, 2007
Web Log - September, 2007
Web Log - August, 2007
Web Log - July, 2007
Web Log - June, 2007
Web Log - May, 2007
Web Log - April, 2007
Web Log - March, 2007
Web Log - February, 2007
Web Log - January, 2007
Web Log - December, 2006
Web Log - November, 2006
Web Log - October, 2006
Web Log - September, 2006
Web Log - August, 2006
Web Log - July, 2006
Web Log - June, 2006
Web Log - May, 2006
Web Log - April, 2006
Web Log - March, 2006
Web Log - February, 2006
Web Log - January, 2006
Web Log - December, 2005
Web Log - November, 2005
Web Log - October, 2005
Web Log - September, 2005
Web Log - August, 2005
Web Log - July, 2005
Web Log - June, 2005
Web Log - May, 2005
Web Log - April, 2005
Web Log - March, 2005
Web Log - February, 2005
Web Log - January, 2005
Web Log - December, 2004
Web Log - November, 2004
Web Log - October, 2004
Web Log - September, 2004
Web Log - August, 2004
Web Log - July, 2004
Web Log - June, 2004

Copyright © 2002-2016 by John J. Xenakis.