UNIC launches the Makridakis Open Forecasting Center

The event featured a talk by Professor Nassim Nicholas Taleb, world-renowned scholar, mathematical researcher and philosophical essayist

The newly-established Makridakis Open Forecasting Center (MOFC) was launched at the University of Nicosia on Tuesday, 21 January 2020, in the presence of the President of the House of Representatives of the Republic of Cyprus, Mr. Demetris Syllouris, the Cyprus Minister of Transport, Communications and Works, Mr. Yiannis Karousos, the Ambassadors of Lebanon, Italy and the Netherlands, the British High Commissioner in Cyprus, Mr. Stephen Lillie CMG, and a packed auditorium of other select guests, including business executives, academics, students and members of the press.

The evening’s honored guest was Nassim Nicholas Taleb, a world-renowned scholar, mathematical researcher and philosophical essayist, and leading personality on the topic of Finance (and Risk in general). Together with Professor Spyros Makridakis, who is considered by many the ‘father’ of Forecasting, Professor Taleb helped launch the first forecasting centre in Cyprus, which will be operating as an integral part of the University of Nicosia’s Institute For the Future (IFF).

The newly-formed Center, under the expert direction of Professor Makridakis, will build on the University’s global initiatives in the prevalent field of Forecasting. More specifically, MOFC will conduct cutting-edge research on forecasting, helping organizations make accurate predictions, estimate levels of uncertainty, and manage risk through training, research, technology development and consulting. Ultimately, MOFC aims to expand the utilization and value of Forecasting among business firms.

During the launch, UNIC CEO, Antonis Polemitis, gave a welcome address, while the two renowned scholars, Professors Makridakis and Taleb, presented their intelligence and insights on an array of forecasting topics. In his speech, Mr. Polemitis noted major changes are underway, expected to affect all aspects of our lives in the coming 10-20 years. He explained the reasons why Forecasting is so important and elaborated on the operating principles of the new Centre, while underlining that the University of Nicosia is already in the process of equipping its students to better adjust to these coming changes.

In his presentation, Professor Makridakis outlined his view that forecasts are essential for practically all business decisions and explained that the newly-created MOFC will work towards improving the accuracy of forecasting and the correct estimation of uncertainty, while offering specific suggestions on how to rationally deal with the ensuing risks. On his part, Professor Nassim Nicholas Taleb gave a talk in which he expanded upon topics revolving around risk in decision making by businesses.

On behalf of the University’s Institute For the Future, its Director General, Professor George Giaglis, commented: “We are thrilled to launch the Makridakis Open Forecasting Centre today. Under the directorship of Professor Makridakis, and with scientific advice by such eminent scholars as Nassim Nicholas Taleb, MOFC will significantly enhance IFF’s research and development work on exponential technologies, including blockchain and Artificial Intelligence. Forecasting lies at the core of almost everything we do; therefore, better forecasts will allow businesses to make more informed decisions and societies to make the most of what our technology-enabled future holds for us. We are looking forward to seeing MOFC in action, kicking off with the M5 Competition, which will bring together thousands of researchers from around the globe to further advance our understanding of prediction-making in the real world”.

Next steps

The Makridakis Open Forecasting Center is currently organising the Makridakis 5 or M5, the fifth consecutive undertaking of its kind, as part of the premier international Forecasting competition in the world. This aims to identify the most appropriate method(s) for different types of situations requiring predictions and uncertainty estimates. As previously, the competition’s findings will be disseminated in the framework of the M Conference, which will include leading speakers from major software/technology companies (Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Uber and SAS), as well as distinguished academics from top-tier universities.

Moreover, the Centre will be offering the M Applied Forecasting Course, a six-week online course covering all types of Forecasting, both time series and regression; offering concrete insight to businesses on how to improve their accuracy and estimating the uncertainty and risk implications in their forecasts.

Interested parties can learn more on the Centre’s official website: mofc.unic.ac.cy.

About Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Professor Nassim Nicholas Taleb is a world-renowned scholar, mathematical researcher and philosophical essayist, who is also actively involved in risk-based policy-making, having at one time advised the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and UK Prime Minister David Cameron. His pioneering work on uncertainty has been supremely influential, with his multivolume essay, the Incerto (The Black SwanFooled by RandomnessAntifragile, and Skin in the Game), having been published in 41 languages. Currently a Distinguished Professor of Risk Engineering at New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering, Professor Taleb will also serve as an IFF Visiting Scholar. His work focuses on mathematical, philosophical, and practical problems with risk and probability, as well as on the properties of systems that can handle disorder.