“At the current rate…” and other assumptions

In order to make any predictions in any area of study, one must make assumptions about the data, and what is likely to affect it going forward.  That is why statistical studies often make use of such statements as:

“At the current rate…”

“If things continue as in the past…”

“Based on what we know now…”

“It is reasonable to assume…”

“If history is a guide…”

“If things don’t change…”

But things do change, and that is what makes predicting the future so difficult, and so vulnerable to known and unknown biases.  While these caveats are unavoidable, and need to be stated, they require the consumer of the statistics to have a reasonable amount of skepticism and a large amount knowledge.

A quote in a The Great Race by Levi Tillemann states that “The available supply of gasoline, as is well know, is quite limited and it behooves the farseeing men of the motor car industry to look for likely substitutes.”  This quote is attributed to Thomas J. Fay, in 1905, in a magazine call Horseless Age.

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