Forecasting in the presence of expectations

Abstract

Physical processes routinely influence economic outcomes, and actions by economic agents can, in turn, influence physical processes. This feedback creates challenges for forecasting and inference, creating the potential for complementarity between models from different academic disciplines. Using the example of prediction of water availability during a drought, we illustrate the potential biases in forecasts that only take part of a coupled system into account. In particular, we show that forecasts can alter the feedbacks between supply and demand, leading to inaccurate prediction about future states of the system. Although the example is specific to drought, the problem of feedback between expectations and forecast quality is not isolated to the particular model–it is relevant to areas as diverse as population assessments for conservation, balancing the electrical grid, and setting macroeconomic policy.

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Allen, R., Zivin, J. & Shrader, J. Forecasting in the presence of expectations. Eur. Phys. J. Spec. Top. 225, 539–550 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1140/epjst/e2015-50095-3

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