Dept of Philosophy | News | Dr Northcott to Present at the American Philosophical Association
Document Actions

Dr Northcott to Present at the American Philosophical Association

Dr Robert Northcott will will be giving talk at the end of March at the American Philosophical Association meeting in San Diego. The talk is titled 'Prediction in Science: How Big Data Does - and Doesn't – Help'.


Have big data methods revolutionized our ability to predict field phenomena, i.e. phenomena outside of the laboratory? When are its predictions successful? I draw on three case studies – of weather forecasting, election prediction, and GDP forecasting – to go beyond existing philosophy of science work. Their overall verdict is mixed. Two factors are important for big data prediction to succeed: underlying causal processes must be stable, and the available dataset must be sufficiently rich. However, even satisfying both of these conditions does not guarantee success. Moreover, the case studies also illustrate some of the reasons why the conditions may not be satisfied in any case. A final lesson is that when predictive success is achieved, it is local and hard to extrapolate to new contexts. More data has not countered this trend; if anything, it exacerbates it. There is reason to think this true of field cases generally.

Further Information

Click here to read the full paper.