Wednesday, June 19, 2024

How to Stop Bad Predictions — Or, at Least, Enjoy Them

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It’s that time of year again! No, not the holidays. It’s the season for self-appointed “experts” and “pundits” to freak everybody out with outlandish predictions — most of which will never come true.

Newspapers, magazines, blogs and TV news shows eat these up, because they’re sensational. And unlike real news, they don’t require the cooperation of reality.

Worst of all, nobody usually follows up on the predictions. By the time they’re proved false, everyone has forgotten about them.

Of course, many predictions are worse than wrong. They’re obvious and nearly inevitable. Predicting that, for example, PCs will get faster and cheaper, Apple will ship a new version of the iPhone or that mergers and acquisitions among tech companies will continue isn’t worth the digital ink it’s printed on.

I’m going to tell you how use the Internet to expose, embarrass and shame bad prognosticators for your own enjoyment. And maybe, if enough people participate, prediction link-baiting won’t be so safe and easy and the predictions will become more reasonable.

But first, let’s review some of the whoppers that have been rolled out during the 2008 prediction season.

• Russian academic Igor Panarin said this week that the United States will “fall apart” in the year 2010. Mass immigration, economic decline, and moral degradation will trigger a civil war that will result in the country being broken up into four countries. He says the West will be controlled by China, the Midwest will be taken over by — wait for it… — Canada, the Northeast will join the European Union, and the South will become part of Mexico.

Gimme a break, dude.

• Pundit Tim Bajarin, writing in PC Magazine, says Windows 7 will ship in Q3 and that it will “catalyze the tech economy.

This is unlikely because if Windows 7 ships in Q3, it won’t be revolutionary. It will be Vista with a patch. And if that’s the case, it won’t be awesome enough to “catalyze the tech economy.”

• Peruvian shamans say that troubled pop star Michael Jackson will “get stronger” in 2009.

I don’t know what that means, but it sounds unlikely.

• “AstroNumerologist” Jesse Kalsi predicts that “the inauguration of Barack Obama might be delayed.” (Note to pundits: If you use the word “might” you can’t be wrong!)

Take my word for it, Jesse, “strong Saturn energies” can’t overcome the Democratic Party’s intention to get back into the White House A.S.A.P. It won’t be delayed.

• A gossip blogger named AnaMo says Brad and Angelina will have yet another set of twins, and that Tom and Katie will get divorced.

I predict that by this time next year, I still won’t care about celebrity reproduction.

The bad predictions go on and on. Here’s what you can do about them: Follow up. There’s a service you may have heard of called Future Me.

The site lets you send e-mail to yourself in the future — even years or decades into the future.

Whenever you see an unlikely prediction, go ahead and copy-and-paste that article into Future Me, and send it to yourself for a delivery time when the prediction should have already happened.

Then, when the prediction is proved to not have come true, tell the world. Blog it. Send a letter to the editor. Twitter all your followers. Post it on Facebook.

Anyway, that’s what I’m going to do. If enough people take up this hobby, maybe those who suck at predicting things will be “outed” and shamed into being less sensational and irresponsible.

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