Follow TV Tropes

Following

Prescience by Analysis

Go To

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/ff15_mad_thinker.jpg
And he would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for those meddling Fantastic Four!
Advertisement:

So, how does one predict what's about to happen when there's no Psychic Powers in the setting? With probability and statistics, that's how. From the results of the next sports game to the fate of the human race, anything can be predicted, as long as we have all the background data and include it in the right equations. You don't think so? Then behold The Big Board! Or even the Room Full of Crazy! There are all the equations! Oh, sure they look like gibberish for the untrained eye, but the math is there. The future can be predicted with 100% accuracy, except for that little detail we did not consider, and which ruined the whole equation.

It's a fairly common theme in science fiction, but somewhat more impractical in Real Life, there have been several attempts like game theory, and of course basic statistics and probability in regards to random events, but there's always randomness that prevents any prediction from being correct 100% of the time.

Advertisement:

Can involve Sherlock Scan or Awesomeness by Analysis. Sometimes used for a Precrime Arrest.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • The Nasu Verse has two types of prescience, as detailed in the epilogue of Kara no Kyoukai, one of which is essentially an ability to intuitively predict the most likely outcome of a particular chain of events based on all the minuscule clues and probabilities known by the "seer". Mikiya explains that this ability is not that different from how meteorologists predict weather.
  • No Game No Life: Shiro is a Child Prodigy capable of high level calculations. While her skills are useful in alot of the games she and Sora compete together in, one of her greatest uses for it is in the realm of FPS games. After acquiring enough information, she can predict the movement and actions of her opponents to such an extent that to others she seems like she can see into the future. It's only when her opponents cheat that her calculations fail.

    Comic Books 
  • Civil War: Tony (main character of Iron Man) thinks that superheroes should be forced to work under government oversight; Captain Rogers (main character of Captain America) thinks that they should still be allowed to do what they think is right. All the other characters in the Marvel Universe have to take sides. Reed Richards supports Iron Man; his maths prove that lack of oversight would lead to several world-destroying disasters. This is explored even further in his own comic, Fantastic Four, where Richards and the Mad Thinker compare notes. The Mad Thinker grants that Richards' equations are far more advanced than those he could come up with, but, as he had done himself in the past, Richards committed the grave mistake of ignoring the "human factor". By being so focused on his equations, he ignored the Invisible Woman's viewpoint, who then left him to join Cap's resistance.
  • Fantastic Four: The Mad Thinker lives for this trope. That's basically his thing: use complex maths to predict the results of his plans. That, and make nigh-unstoppable robots without mind.
  • In Incredible Hulk, The Incredible Hercules, and Totally Awesome Hulk, this is stated to be the "power/talent" of Amadeus Cho, the smartest kid in the world. He possesses a "hypermind" capable of making a seemingly endless number of calculations in his head within seconds, predicting what's going to happen.. Visually, it appears as numbers and formulas floating in mid-air. Later, we learn that it runs in the family as his sister Maddie can do the same thing. In Chaos War, this was Played With, as Cho and other super-intelligent characters (such as Galactus) accept that the Big Bad Mikaboshi is unbeatable, but Hercules refuses to accept it.
  • Adrian Veidt of Watchmen is the "World's Smartest Man" and he's able to use his vast intellect to predict and anticipate changes in politics, society, culture, human psychology and by smart timing, such as publicly revealing his secret identity at a time of widespread distrust in superheroism, he is able to cultivate an image of respectability and goodwill that he uses to build an immensely successful corporation, whose resources he then taps into to unleash his devastating master-plan to save the world. He also anticipates that the strained international tensions will cause a baby boom from the accompanying increased sexualization of the media and advises his company to invest in child care products.

    Fan Works 
Advertisement:

    Film 
  • π: Max Renn is a reclusive mathematician/numerologist who is trying to find the universal constant that will allow him to predict every pattern in nature. Specifically, a group of Wall Street bankers are funding his research to help them predict the stock market with perfect accuracy.
  • In the Sherlock Holmes films starring Robert Downey Jr., Holmes has this as his trademark skill in combat situations. Before combat even begins, he can predict how a battle would play out to the exact mark thanks to him calculating the situation before hand. In his confrontation with Moriarty at the end of the second film, it's revealed that Moriarty has the same ability.
  • In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, HYDRA's master plan involves preemptively executing everyone who could ever possibly be willing to rise up against their new world order. To do this, they created an advanced psychoanalysis algorithm to predict how each and every individual person in the world would most likely behave in the future, based on private information, social trends and internet habits. The result is a global hit-list stretching into the tens-of-millions, intended to be plugged into the targeting systems of Project Insight's hyper-precise helicarrier weapons.
    Jasper Sitwell: The 21st century is a digital book; Zola taught us how to read it. Your bank records, medical histories, voting patterns, e-mails, phone calls, your MSAT scores — Zola's algorithm evaluates peoples' past to predict the future.

    Literature 
  • Isaac Asimov:
  • Robert Silverberg's The Stochastic Man: The title character is a stochastics expert who runs an agency that predicts the future (specifically, business risks and stock exchange rates) based on hard maths—but gives it up after meeting his mentor who can actually see the future and teaches him the same.
  • Mary Gentle's 1610: A Sundial in a Grave: This story revolves around a form of mathematics that can predict future actions, with such precision that a mathematician with no sword-wielding aptitude is capable of winning a fight by predicting it several months in advance and then practicing the sequence of moves that will result in victory. One character turns out to be manipulating events because he's foreseen a catastrophe four hundred years in the future that can only be averted if he starts laying the groundwork now.
  • Worm: Among the many abilities granted to the Number Man is the ability to predict the future through probability, which he can use in combat to predict the moves of his enemies before they make them.

    Live-Action TV 
  • An early villain in Alphas had an intuitive understanding of cause and effect and could influence events, such as rolling a water bottle onto the road to create a massive traffic accident. Unfortunately he couldn't understand that other people did things without calculating the end results, and thought they were all plotting against him.
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: In the episode "Spacetime" we meet an Inhuman who can make people see someone's death in the future just by touching them. Those futures can not be avoided (but they can be twisted). Leopold Fitz, resident genius, explains that predictions are mathematically possible.
  • In The Cape, Tracey Jerrod (AKA Dice) has an innate understanding of quantum physics, allowing her to foresee the future to a high degree. Her father worked to map her brain in order to be able to duplicate the ability technologically. His research was stolen by Peter Fleming (AKA Chess) and, eventually, released as T.R.A.C.E., a computer program that can predict things like the stock market with incredible accuracy. Neither Dice nor T.R.A.C.E. is infallible, though.
  • In season 4 of The Flash, Clifford DeVoe (AKA the Thinker) gets super-intelligence as a result of the particle accelerator explosion (which he predicted). This gives him the unprecedented ability to calculate a myriad of possibilities for every action. He uses that to push Team Flash into doing things to his benefit. His only flaw is that he can't wrap his mind around human emotions and how they can affect behavior in unpredictable ways. At least one carefully-laid plan goes awry when he fails to account for that.
  • NUMB3RS has Charlie use math to predict crimes before they can happen for the FBI in Los Angeles.
  • The premise of Person of Interest is that a computer extrapolates from surveillance data who will be a threat to national security, and as a side effect predicts other violent crimes.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: In "Statistical Probabilities", a group of genetically-enhanced savants are given access to secret war-related documents. They predict that the Dominion War will cost billions of lives, and to prevent such a loss of life they recommend that the Federation immediately surrender. Naturally, the Federation leaders do not accept the recommendation. They also predict that ultimately the Dominion will then be overthrown by a rebellion starting on Earth... but utterly fail to predict that the Dominion also predicted this and are planning to wipe out the planet (which the audience found out a few episodes previous in "Sacrifice of Angels".

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Eclipse Phase, the psi-slight Predictive Boost temporarily amps up the Bayesian probability machine features of the brain.
  • Monster of the Week: The Flake playbook has a special move called "Connect the Dots", which lets them figure out, among other things, where and when then next crucial plot event will take place from the minor in-game clues (out-of-character, this allows their player to flat-out ask the Game Master to reveal future plot details).

    Video Games 
  • Fallout:
    • In Fallout 4, the Railroad has P.A.M., the Predictive Analytics Machine, a pre-war US spy-ops computer loaded into an Assaultron frame. She is a secondary Quest Giver for the Railroad faction.
    • In Fallout: New Vegas, Robert House was able to predict almost the exact date that the world would be plunged into a nuclear apocalypse and would have succeeded in fully protecting Las Vegas had he not been off by just one day. His ability to predict the odds and push them towards his favor is the game's way of justifying a high luck stat, with the cybernetic implant that boosts your Luck stat being a "Probability Calculator" that lets you perceive various probabilities and choose the best one.
    "Success depends on forethought, dispassionate calculation of probabilities, accounting for every stray variable."

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • Action Man (2000) gave Alex Mann this ability. When his adrenaline reached a peak point, he could calculate what thing to do to defuse a situation (which usually involved an extreme sports stunt of some kind). This ability also gave him an uncontrollable type of precognition. Coach Grey, the man responsible for Alex's ability, has a computer that can do the same on a larger scale.
  • In Avengers, Assemble! Iron Man has a software that scans the battles and battle scenarios, and predicts the best strategy to defeat the enemy, along with the probability of success. They get in a big problem when Red Skull, who steals an armour in the first episode, finally finds this software and learns how to use it.
  • Futurama: When Bender overclocks himself, he develops the ability to predict every possible outcome. He uses this ability to stop Mom's killbots, to predict when ceiling fans would fall on Zoidberg, and write down a detailed account of the future of Fry and Leela's relationship.


Top

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:

/

Media sources:

/

Report