Predicting the future is a very difficult business.

But it is a business. Whenever you turn on the TV, read a newspaper or surf online, you will inevitably find experts offering their thoughts on what will happen in future.

And it's a business that keeps going even if these experts are often wrong.

"The future really is unpredictable," said Ottawa Citizen journalist Dan Gardner in a recent telephone interview, laying out the key problem in forecasting what will happen tomorrow.

From Y2K hysteria to the fervent belief that the Japanese economy would permanently overtake the American economy in the 1990s, history is littered with expert predictions that failed to come true.

But Gardner said it's still a win-win situation for the pundits who make judgment calls about the unknown.

When experts make statements that turn out to be correct, it builds their brand and credibility.

But when they are wrong, hardly anybody remembers how wrong their previous predictions were. And they keep on getting asked to share their erroneous insights.

Rarely, if ever, do they get called out for their mistakes.

"It doesn't happen," said Gardner. "There is no accountability in the expert-prediction business."

Gardner has written a new book about the preponderance of failed predictions and why we keep falling back into their arms.

"Failed Babble: Why Expert Predictions Fail -- and Why We Believe Them Anyway" argues that we tend to believe definitive statements about what lies ahead because we have a psychological aversion to the alternative. In other words, we tend to be very uncomfortable about not knowing what is to come.

In making his case, Gardner keys into the research of psychologist Philip Tetlock.

Starting in the mid-1980s, Tetlock got a group of nearly 300 experts to make many very specific predictions about the future.

After enough time had passed, Tetlock analyzed more than 27,000 predictions and found that the experts were not nearly as successful as they themselves would have predicted.

The data showed that the collective group of experts would have provided more accurate general predictions by making random guesses about the future, which Tetlock once said made the group worse at predicting the future than "a dart-throwing chimpanzee."

Even worse, Tetlock found that the larger the media profile an individual expert had, the less accurate their predictions were. Or as Gardner puts it, he found an "inverse correlation between fame and accuracy."

But there was a range of success among experts and Tetlock's research also concluded that the more skilled experts in the group were much less certain about their predictions and more comfortable with complexity. And they used many kinds of reasoning principles and analysis of issues.

Gardner said these less popular, but generally more accurate experts are often ignored in the media because they can seem kind of wishy-washy in interviews, in an "on the one hand, on the other hand" kind of way. That's the reason former U.S. President Harry Truman once wished for a one-armed economist, so he wouldn't have to listen to the other hand.

But Gardner argued these more skilled and sophisticated experts are the ones to consult. They are also the people that we should pattern our own thinking upon.

For the public, Gardner believes that a more skeptical approach is needed when evaluating the claims of expert prognosticators. We should listen more closely to those lateral thinkers who are less certain about what is ahead, while taking a step back from people who use one style of thinking to make their concrete conclusions.

Like the old X-Files tag line, we want to believe.

But Gardner said we need to do the opposite of what our brains are telling us: "We have to embrace uncertainty."