Forecasting has fascinated people for thousands of years, sometimes being considered a sign of divine inspiration, and sometimes being seen as a criminal activity. The Jewish prophet Isaiah wrote in about 700 BC

Tell us what the future holds, so we may know that you are gods.
(Isaiah 41:23)

One hundred years later, in ancient Babylon, forecasters would foretell the future based on the distribution of maggots in a rotten sheep’s liver. By 300 BC, people wanting forecasts would journey to Delphi in Greece to consult the Oracle, who would provide her predictions while intoxicated by ethylene vapours. Forecasters had a tougher time under the emperor Constantine, who issued a decree in AD357 forbidding anyone “to consult a soothsayer, a mathematician, or a forecaster

May curiosity to foretell the future be silenced forever.” A similar ban on forecasting occurred in England in 1736 when it became an offence to defraud by charging money for predictions. The punishment was three months’ imprisonment with hard labour!

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