Big Thinker Rob Hyndman Explores the Science of Forecasting and Prediction

Jun 29, 2015

Big Thinker Rob Hyndman

Last week we were fortunate to have had one of the foremost statistical forecasters in the world, Dr. Rob Hyndman, join us for a Big Thinkers talk on the science of forecasting and prediction. Dr. Hyndman delivered a captivating seminar called, "Exploring the boundaries of predictability: what can we forecast, and when should we give up?"

In his talk, Dr. Hyndman discussed his research efforts to realize his long-term goal of understanding what models work best at predicting various types of time-series. Professor Hyndman demonstrated the aspects that make certain time-series more predictable than others by giving real-life examples based on his own research and work consulting for the Australian government. He explored different features that can be extracted from time-series and how they can be used to judge if something is predictable. Professor Hyndman also talked about his work with Yahoo Labs on Anomaly Detection and how extracted time-series features can be used for finding anomalies. While Dr. Hydnaman's goal of finding the right time-series model for a given dataset is still under active pursuit, his work on anomaly detection in collaboration with Yahoo Labs has already been open-sourced.

Dr. Rob Hyndman at Yahoo for #BigThinkers

The event was broadcast live on our homepage and viewers had the opportunity to ask questions and comment on our Twitter stream @YahooLabs as well as our Facebook page.

If you would like to learn what it takes to forecast and accurately predict the future, watch the full seminar here:


Why is it that we can accurately forecast a solar eclipse in 1000 years time, but we have no idea whether Yahoo's stock price will rise or fall tomorrow? Or why can we forecast electricity consumption next week with remarkable precision, but we cannot forecast exchange rate fluctuations in the next hour?

In this talk, I will discuss the conditions we need for predictability, how to measure the uncertainty of predictions, and the consequences of thinking we can predict something more accurately than we can.

I will draw on my experiences in forecasting Australia's health budget for the next few years, in developing forecasting models for peak electricity demand in 20 years time, and in identifying unpredictable activity on Yahoo's mail servers.


Rob J Hyndman is Professor of Statistics at the Monash Business School, and Director of the Monash University Business & Economic Forecasting Unit. He is also Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Forecasting and a Director of the International Institute of Forecasters. Rob is the author of over 100 research papers in statistical science, and three best-selling books on statistical forecasting. In 2007, he received the Moran medal from the Australian Academy of Science for his contributions to statistical research, especially in the area of statistical forecasting. For 30 years, Rob has maintained an active consulting practice, assisting hundreds of companies and organizations. His recent consulting work has involved forecasting electricity demand, tourism demand, and the Australian government health budget.


Yahoo Labs is proud to bring you its 2015 Big Thinkers Speaker Series. Each year, some of the most influential, accomplished experts from the research community visit our campus to share their insights on topics that are significant to Yahoo. These distinctive speakers are shaping the future of the new sciences underlying the Web and are guaranteed to inform, enlighten, and inspire.