IC Honors Seminar Spotlight: The Challenges of Prediction

Check out mathematics professor James Conklin’s seminar on the challenges of prediction! Learn more below:

Describe your seminar in one sentence. The course will look at the nature uncertainty and prediction and will explore the question of why some predictions succeed while most fail.”

Describe your classroom style in one sentence.My goal in a seminar like this is to have interesting conversation;  the best classes are those that start interesting conversations and raise questions that keep on going in your head after our 50 minutes together are up.” 

What is one thing you hope students will take away from your seminar? “Our environmental, physical, political and economic futures depend on the quality of our predictions.  The hope is everyone will come away with a greater appreciation of uncertainty to get valuable insights in evaluating predictions in a wide variety of areas.   The seminar will also share the broader goals of  quantitative literacy —  ‘You will develop the ability to investigate and interpret quantitative information, critique it, reflect upon it, and apply it to a given issue.'”

What is one piece of advice you would give to students?Keep up the good fight against and the boundaries of your comfort zones.  The Honors Program is an excellent opportunity to challenge yourself in new directions — take full advantage of it.”

Want to know more? “The two main readings we will be using are 

The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail — but Some Don’t by Nate Silver  and  Chaos: Making a New Science by James Gleick.

You can check out the blog/website of one of the authors (Nate Silver) at www.fivethirtyeight.com.  Like this website, the seminar will be checking out daily current events through the lense of the ideas we’ll be exploring.     

Opportunities for projects will be very-wide ranging and could include development of prediction models of an area of interest to you  (politics, sports, economic,  …), analysis of a contemporary prediction model (for instance, how does Netflix or Amazon have the nerve to predict what we want to  watch or buy), studies of non-Western or non-quantitative approaches to prediction and uncertainty.”

Check out the full list of seminars here and the whole list of spotlights here.