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I Predict

January 8, 2018

In addition to resolutions and last-year lists, the beginning of the year brings with it the society of sages making predictions for the new year.

    The predictions from so-called – or worse, self-styled – experts are becoming so tiresome as to encourage ignoring them all together.  Whether it’s sports or politics, technology or economics, predictions are spewing forth at an alarming rate.  What’s worse is that various media outlets give credence to these predictions by publishing (or airing) them as soon-to-be facts.

 

    Wouldn’t you love it if at least a few of these outlets periodically – maybe once a year, or twice a year, or as appropriate – revisited these predictions to see how many of them actually came true, or were even close to coming true?  Of course, doing to would discredit the prognosticators which would call into question the credibility of the news outlet itself.

    If you’re featuring and giving platform or credence to self-emulated experts who turn out to be wrong, what does that say about your media outlet and your ability to distinguish bona fide experts and expert-wannabes?

    This is not a new problem, but it has grown seeming exponentially. Perhaps, however, it has grown proportionately to the number of content-starved media outlets. At any rate, they’re out there at every turn.

    For some media outlets, it appears that their version of journalism is less to report the news, and more to predict it.  Today’s news today – that may have been good enough for your father’s generation, but today it’s just not timely enough. Now they want to take the position of tomorrow’s news today. Sounds like the weather forecasters – except less accurate.

    Like it or not, don’t expect the prognosticators to go away at time soon. We’re stuck with them. But we don’t have to be stuck with their forecasts. In fact, there is only one way to deal with predictions, and that’s with a healthy dose of skepticism.

    For your entertainment or enjoyment, courtesy of www.anecdotage.com, let’s look at some of history’s more notable predictions.

    In 1963, New York Yankees pitcher Gaylord Perry jokingly remarked that "They'll put a man on the moon before I hit a home run." On July 20, 1969, a few hours after Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, Perry hit his first, and only, home run.

    "A bishop [in the late 19th Century] pronounced from his pulpit and in the periodical he edited that heavier-than-air flight was both impossible and contrary to the will of God. Oh, the irony that Bishop Wright had two sons, Orville and Wilbur! Wright was wrong. Sure of himself, but wrong."

    Then there are coincidences. Sometimes creepy, they really don’t rise to the level of a prediction.

    In 1898, Morgan Robertson published a novel, entitled Futility, about a glamorous 800-foot Atlantic liner: The fictional vessel, the largest in the world, is triple-screw and capable of making some 25 knots. Though its passenger list is the creme de la creme, it possesses an insufficient number of lifeboats. On a cold April night, the supposedly "unsinkable" vessel strikes an iceberg, breaks apart, and silently slips to the bottom of the Atlantic..

    Fourteen years after the book's publication, the Titanic sank during her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York. The name of Robertson's fictional ship? The Titan.

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