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Prescience by Analysis

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And he would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for those meddling Fantastic Four!

"If you look closely enough at the present you can find loose bits of the future just lying around."

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.

Can involve Sherlock Scan or Awesomeness by Analysis. Sometimes used for a Precrime Arrest. Contrast Butterfly of Doom.



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    Anime and Manga 
  • The backstory of The Orbital Children features an AI known as Seven, which made statistical predictions of the future known as the "Seven Poems." Seven predicted that Earth's population would be reduced by 36.79%, one of the factors leading to its deactivation. But it later turned out to mean that they wouldn't die via a catastrophe, but leave Earth over the next several decades to live in space.

    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 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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.
  • 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.

  • Isaac Asimov:
    • All the Troubles of the World: The supercomputer Multivac is given full data on the entire Earth, including all of its citizens. It uses this information to predict the future actions of human beings; nearly eliminating crime, war, and poverty. There's proposals to expand the predictive analysis to include medical issues. Recently it has been given the responsibility to predict all crimes in advance so they can be prevented from occurring.
    • Foundation Series: Psychohistory, a set of mathematical models developed by Hari Seldon, is used to predict the future. There are certain restrictions on its ability to work as a form of prophecy; (1) Predictions can only be made for societies of a minimum size, although experts in the field have successfully wielded it on a scale as small as individual people. (2) The people whose actions are being predicted can't know what the prediction is. (3) That there would be no fundamental changes in human society over the next thousand years. Technology could advance, but not fundamentally alter the way human civilization functioned. (4) That human reaction to stimuli would remain constant. (This assumption was challenged in "The Mule", where the antagonist had a mutation giving him Emotion Control powers.) In addition, one more premise is deduced in Foundation and Earth; psychohistory only predicts human reactions, alien, including transhuman creatures are not predictable.
    • Franchise: Multivac has almost every datapoint it needs to predict how the citizens of America would vote in the election, and selects Muller to fill in the gaps of its predictive abilities, thereby negating the need for anyone to vote at all.
    • "Spell My Name with an "S"": Dr. Zebatinsky goes to a numerologist, who reveals that he isn't a Fortune Teller; he's a mathematician. Instead of analyzing the mystical significance of numbers, he uses computers, models, and statistical analysis to predict the future.
      Haround: Given enough data and a computer capable of sufficient number of operations in unit time, the future is predictable, at least in terms of probabilities.
  • 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.
  • The Nasu Verse has two types of prescience, as detailed in the epilogue of The Garden of Sinners, 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.
  • The Dresden Files: In Small Favor, Captain Luccio of the Wardens reveals to Harry Dresden that most of the ancient Oracles at Delphi were actually previous hosts of the Archive, and their supposed prophecies were actually them using their vast knowledge to reason what the most likely future to happen was.
  • No Game No Life: Shiro is a Child Prodigy capable of high level calculations. While her skills are useful in a lot 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.

    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.
  • Milo in the Fringe episode "The Plateau" is a mentally handicapped man turned into a mathematical supergenius by an experimental drug. He goes on a killing spree against the doctors who want to wean him off, managing to do them in with Disaster Dominoes "accidents" that seem unconnected to him. His attempt to kill Olivia only fails because she's from "our" universe and therefore makes different decisions than people in his.
  • 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". They try to force the issue by handing critical information over to the Dominion, but fail to predict that one of their own members would alert the authorities of the plan.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The infamous LosTech Space Defense System from BattleTech had a component that could be installed in the larger drone units called the ATAC, short for Autonomous Tactical Analysis Computer, capable of millions of calculations per second. It allowed the robots to make predictive analysis of the battlefield, and made retaking Terra a real pain when Stephan Amaris took over the Terran Hedgemony and turned the SDS against the Star League.
  • 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."
  • Xenoblade Chronicles: This is how the Monado can grant visions of the future. As the world the game takes place in is composed entirely of ether, and it's able to manipulate ether on an effectively omniscient level, it's able to predict the future with perfect accuracy. Well, except that said predictions themselves allow the future to be changed.
  • The Big Bad of the Danganronpa franchise, Junko Enoshima, though they advertise themselves as being the Ultimate Fashionista (and, of course, Ultimate Despair), their actual talent is Ultimate Analyst. Their analytical ability is so great that they can basically predict the future (which is how she can be the Ultimate Fashionista, as she can predict what fashion trends are about to take off and get in on them early). This ability, however, has left them extremely bored with the world, since nothing comes as a surprise to them. This is what led them to become obsessed with the emotion of despair, as it is the one thing they found that makes people act in ways even they can't predict, and is therefore the only thing even remotely interesting or exciting to them. The second game has another example in Izuru Kamukura, who is this by virtue of having every single talent known to man and has fallen into a level of boredom rivaling even the Big Bad's.

    Web Comics 
  • In S.S.D.D. one of the Oracle's functions was to calculate and predict upcoming disasters. Unfortunately it needed experimental data. Briefly, he tries teaching Tessa some at a casino, just for the laughs.
  • All sufficiently powerful Immortals can do this in El Goonish Shive. Actually seeing into the future is impossible, but Immortals have incredible means of gathering information and get smarter with age. This means that they can extrapolate the outcome of most situations based on what they already know. Unfortunately, they also get increasingly unstable with age, leading to one mad Immortal trying to create situations so chaotic that she can't predict the outcome.
  • Sarilho: How augurs see the future. That's not future sight, that's... Probability! [1]
  • In Schlock Mercenary the Bolocedeans manage to make some incredibly accurate inferences about their visitors before the visitors even arrive with only the teraport arrival of tiny sensors to herald the coming of a visitor, knowledge about the galaxy that is at least two million years out of date, and lots of computational power.
    Blue: “The Stategic Simulation Team's report is here.”
    Red: “Thank you. Can you tell us what's coming?”
    Blue: “The most probable scenario is that intelligent life has evolved on the planet from which we rescued the feather-folk. They've harnessed the power of the galactic core and will shortly be arriving to ask about their relatives.”
    * beat*
    Red: “That is probable?”
    Blue: “Would you like to see the math?”

    Web Original 
  • 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.
    • Powers that involve future sight also act this way... no one can actually see the future, but their power can model the future (or possible futures, depending) with such precision and accuracy it hardly matters.

    Western Animation 
  • Action Man (2000) gives 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.

    Real Life 
It is of course impossible to do this with perfect accuracy thanks in large part to chaos theory, but a great amount of effort is spent in real life trying to ascertain what is probable to occur, especially when the stakes are high.
  • Meteorology is perhaps the most important example. Forecasts of the weather date back to antiquity though accurate forecasting is a more recent phenomena. As with most examples here the accuracy of forecasts drops with distance into the future.
  • The entire discipline of Probability and Statistics deal in this trope. See also the Law of Large Numbers. This is why gambling casinos are profitable ventures: while the gambler may get lucky in an individual game or even on a wild night, over the months and hundreds of thousands of games the slight odds in the house's favor leads to a profit.
  • Political polling is another huge venture where this trope is in play. Polls however are limited by sampling size, methodologies, and even when accurate they can't be certain.
  • Astronomy. Most would consider the motions of planets, stars and other celestial bodies to be predictable, but in truth they are only so up to a point. On time scales of millions of years the orbits of the planets in the solar system cannot be accurately predicted. Smaller bodies can be difficult to predict even within a century due to them being far more susceptible to being nudged by the gravity of planets and also by their own radiation and outgassing in the case of comets.