Prediction and Detection, A Note

What is the difference between prediction and detection? For a person from different scientific backgrounds, these may be slightly different meanings. But, we will all agree to the fact that finding the next number in a sequence of numbers say {1,1,2,3,5,8} .. is a prediction problem while detecting if there is a prime in a set of numbers {1,1,2,3,5,8} is a detection problem.

It doesn’t stop there, it gets very interesting when we think about any practical way of predicting things. Let’s say you have a sequence of numbers and you are trying to predict the next number all you are doing is detecting if there exists a pattern in the series of numbers such that the next number is say 13 (in our previous example). Therefore, detection of a particular pattern becomes prediction. Then how do we differentiate?

I believe the practical way to look at this problem is in the following way. Why are you doing the prediction/detection exercise, is it to understand what happens in the future? or just to see if there are some anomalies in the data which may or may not lead to a particular future outcome? The first one is a prediction problem and the second one a detection problem.

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