Facebook asks its users to predict the future with its Forecast app

It’s not using big data or predictive analytics, though.

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When will we get a COVID-19 vaccine? Will Alf get a modern-day reboot? Facebook wants to answer these questions -- or at least make some guesses. The company’s new iOS app, Forecast, lets experts form predictions, and then see if they turn out to be accurate. Those experts -- who are invite-only at the moment -- can put forth an answer and explain their reasoning. The public can then vote on which predictions they think are more likely to come true. Whether this app is meant as some form of practical guidance isn’t clear.

According to Facebook, Forecast’s first initiative starts today, with health researchers and academics predicting the impacts and outcomes of the coronavirus pandemic. The trouble comes when people vote on answers, as the process boils everything down to a binary choice. This feels simultaneously concerning and spot-on for Facebook. The platform is a frequent host to misinformation, and speculation about serious health issues could only reinforce certain beliefs. That said, it looks as if current users are also able to post questions and predictions about any subject. Scrolling through the platforms reveals more questions, ranging from politics to Tiger King.

Facebook Forecast

This is a strange experiment, and its purpose isn’t clear. If someone has a question about an important subject or event, they can search for information from a reputable source and then try to find supporting data. Forecast seems to simplify this process -- possibly to a concerning level.