On Geopolitics

The Pitfalls of Patterns in Geopolitical Forecasting

Rodger Baker
Senior VP of Strategic Analysis, Stratfor
Sep 19, 2019 | 09:00 GMT
Historical and other patterns point the way forward, but they don't provide a blueprint for forecasters.

Historical and other patterns point the way forward, but they don't provide a blueprint for forecasters.

(POR666/Shutterstock)

Patterns are paramount -- at least as far as geopolitical intelligence analysis is concerned. Whether the patterns are based on history, geography, stimulus and response or the like, they help us build theories and rules to simplify the world, make initial assertions and raise questions. Used effectively -- and critically -- patterns point a path to the future, helping to identify the stimulus and conditions that lead to the emergence of the pattern in the first place. But seeking and using patterns in analysis also presents several potential pitfalls. There is a tendency to see patterns where they are not, to create false causal links and to allow cognitive and information bias to shape and solidify theories about patterns that are misleading at best -- or patently faulty at worst. Ultimately, patterns can illuminate the way forward, although their observer would be wise to avoid using them as a step-by-step...

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