Happy New Year’s! It’s time to look ahead on the year to come and to make our annual predictions about what we expect to happen in the new year. We will then review those predictions on December 31, as we did yesterday, heaping honors upon the best prognosticators. So predict away! After the jump, some reflections on predictions.Most predictions take a current trend or phenomenon and then extrapolate it into the future. That can work up to a point, but then what the old philosophers and theologians called “the contingency of being” kicks in. Contingency means that surprising things happen, upsetting our rational expectations. Things could be different than they are. And conditions keep changing on us. (There is even an argument for the existence of God based on the contingency of existence.)
For example, tech mystics take the fact that computer memory keeps growing exponentially and project that out into the future, so that at some omega point we will reach an event horizon in which computers become sentient and we can all become immortal by downloading our consciousness into the internet. So that may well happen, but then the site at which we download our minds turns out to be HealthCare.gov.
The best predictions are those that foresee not just a continuation of a trend but some contingent fact, preferably one that throws a monkey wrench into the trend or that starts a new one.
So try to be specific in your prediction, which will make it all the more amazing if it comes true. (I know that contingencies are, by definition, unpredictable, but still. . . .)
For example, a few years ago, tODD predicted that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il would die and be succeeded by his son Kim Jong Un. Who even knew about Kim Jong Un at the time? But here he is today, hanging out with DennisRodman, executing his relatives, and machine-gunning citizens who possess a Bible.
And in our last contest, SAL predicted that 2013 would see a new pope. At the time of the prediction, Pope Benedict was still rather new at the job. No pope had resigned for six centuries. Perhaps SAL thought he would die. But that a new pope would be chosen in 2013 was hardly obvious and was seemingly unlikely. But SAL predicted this contingency and so took the prize.