‘The Book Of Predictions’ – A Review of Successful and Failed Predictions

Forty years ago now, having published two Books of Lists, the authors listed on the front cover shown here compiled ‘The Book of Predictions’, probably in connection with the fact that the 1980s had just begun. The preceding two titles are creatures of their time in that their content is now the kind of thing you might find on Buzzfeed or elsewhere on the internet, but since such things were entirely new at the time they were very popular and there were two further editions after ‘Predictions’. I was personally fascinated by them. They only ended when the internet began to be more available to the general public, the last book being published one year before Windows 95 came out.

‘Predictions’ is, as is often acknowledged within its pages, very hit and miss and many of the predictions seem ludicrous today. It also isn’t just about predictions of the future past 1981, but has, for example, a whole chapter on the subject of bad predictions, another on well-known predictors such as Nostradamus and pieces on matters such as nuclear weapons, agriculture and music. However, the bulk of the book consists of predictions taken from various people broken up into periods starting in 1982 and ending in 2030, but some are much further ahead with the last date being in the year 3000.

One of the interesting things which can be done with this book today is not simply to look back on it and laugh, or see what it got right and what it got wrong, but to ascertain which predictors were the most successful and look at themes detectable in the book about what was wrong but widely expected, what was right and widely expected and what was correct but only predicted by one or two people. From that, it’s possible to select the kind of person who tends to be correct about the future.

Predictors can be placed in several categories. There are bookies, experts, science fiction writers and a fourth category I might describe as “psychics”, although that isn’t entirely accurate because, for example, it includes astrologers. Not everyone asked took it seriously and quite a few people pointed out, perhaps partly as a way of protecting their reputation, that they didn’t intend for their contributions to be considered predictions so much as forecasts. Arthur C Clarke, for example, did this, and he’s an interesting case because of his own ‘Profiles Of The Future’ published two decades previously, which sought to do something quite similar in the realm of science and technology. ‘Predictions’ has a wider remit, covering the likes of geopolitics, population, climate change and warfare.

Conceivably, the book could suffer either from vagueness plus confirmation bias or from the “right twice a day” effect. It seems likely that if one makes a large enough number of predictions, some of them will be true simply due to their variety and the laws of probability. Moreover, with hindsight the words written could be crammed into the moulds subsequent events provided, particularly if they’re quite general. This is often said of Nostradamus’s work, for example, but as I’ve covered elsewhere it’s notable that if you read interpretations of his ‘Centuries’ they actually do sometimes seem remarkably accurate. Nostradamus is subject to the kind of “hyper-skepticism” which is not really scepticism at all but involves people making up their minds in advance that he’s wrong, and in fact he was widely interpreted as predicting 9/11 several decades before it happened. Erica Cheetham’s books, for example, published in the late 1970s, describe the Twin Towers attack quite accurately. Nonetheless it’s important to bear such cognitive biasses in mind.

The content is in some places adversely affected by people choosing to propagandise and grind axes. A particularly notable example is David S Sullivan of the CIA, who described the USSR taking over the world. His “predictions” now read as either paranoid or nakedly indoctrinaire. Other people seem to have described what they would like to happen without paying much attention to the trends of history or the Zeitgeist, such as one author who portrayed extensive neighbourhood food gardening programs, occurring for example on high-rise building roofs, which is a nice idea and might even be practical, but also seems quite fanciful and is clearly wishful thinking.

Notably, a number of predictions were made multiple times and turned out to be wrong, and it’s instructive to contemplate why they haven’t happened. These include: nuclear war, nuclear blackmail, orbital solar power stations (that one in particular is probably the most common of all), the Jupiter Effect, widespread hydroponics, high inflation, controlled fusion, 3-D television, widespread use of holograms, a lunar base, a new Ice Age and underground cities. One of these probably needs further explanation if you weren’t old enough to remember it at the time. The Jupiter Effect was a prediction made in 1974 on the basis of the fact that on 10th March 1982, all the planets including Pluto would be on the same side of the Sun within 95° of each other, which was true and clearly easily predictable because of the known movements of bodies within the Solar System. The idea was that the tidal forces raised by all the planets on this one would lead to quakes and volcanic eruptions, and there was also a retroactive prophecy that it had occurred two years earlier and caused the eruption of Mount St Helens. The San Andreas Fault was a particular focus. Some of the predictors in the book not only included this prediction, but went on to describe probable political, economic and social consequences. To be fair, if there had been such a cluster of natural disasters, the predictions conditional upon them would probably have been quite accurate, and although it wasn’t widely discussed at the time, it’s also conceivable that the Butterfly Effect could have a hand in it happening, but it didn’t, and John Gribbin, who wrote the book and its sequel about Mount St Helens along with Stephen Plagemann, later said he was embarrassed about the forecast and retracted his claims.

Controlled fusion, of course, comes up over and over again in predictions and is permanently “thirty years away”. If a similar compilation of predictions were to be made today, it would almost certainly be included. It hasn’t happened of course, and back then many people would have been just as dismissive of it as I’m being now. That doesn’t mean it will never happen. In Brian Stableford’s ‘History of the Third Millennium’, I think he placed its achievement in the 2070s, when it depended on supercomputers being able to predict and vary the necessary configuration of the magnetic containment bottle sufficiently fast, so maybe. I don’t know. I put controlled fusion in ‘1934’. However, there’s another more peculiar and mysterious incorrect prediction which was made over and over again: orbital solar power. For instance, the July 1976 National Geographic includes an illustration of an enormous solar power station several kilometres across being constructed at the L5 point near Cynthia (“the Moon”). Several reasons why this hasn’t happened may be: that we’ve stayed in low-Earth orbit since the Apollo missions; the microwave beams needed to transmit power back to this planet are effectively death rays; the fossil fuels lobby. It is, however, a glaringly different future in that respect because if this had been done safely, the Arab countries relying on oil wealth would no longer be able to do so and would probably have become more liberal, and of course there would be less anthropogenic climate change.

This brings me to the fourth widely made error: the expectation that there would be a new Ice Age. This was famously held by Nigel Calder, editor of the ‘New Scientist’ at the time, but it was in any case uncertain. A 1977 edition of the ‘National Geographic’ includes an article called ‘What’s Happening To Our Climate’ where uncertainty is expressed about whether it would get hotter or colder, and also includes the first reference I read to the Butterfly Effect. I remember reading it and concluding that it would get hotter, which disappointed me because I found the idea of a new Ice Age quite exciting. There’s even a list of which countries would be worst affected by it, including this one and Bhutan. Nigel Calder did contribute to the book and made the prediction that by 2000, anthropogenic climate change would have been refuted and also that SETI would have been abandoned due to negative results. It’s interesting that the second of these hasn’t happened, and I’ll return to that.

Hydroponics are a “futuristic” and science fiction staple of a few decades ago, and are still done sometimes. They have the advantage of not needing any suitable soil and are free from competitive species, but they haven’t caught on. I don’t know why this is. I actually almost did them myself this year but Sarada vetoed it due to lack of room in the house. Somewhere on this blog is a breakdown of land use taken from this book, and it’s way more efficient to grow many crops hydroponically than in soil, and also preserves the soil from erosion. Hydroponic plants have a greater yield, grow twice as fast as plants in soil and use a tenth of the water. Harvesting is simpler. However, there can be waterborne harmful organisms, they need a lot of monitoring so they’re labour-intensive, the plants are reliant on human intervention rather than soil for nutrition and the root systems are small, so I imagine you can’t easily grow carrots or potatoes this way. There also needs to be a reliable power supply and the initial investment is higher than for soil-grown crops. However, the disadvantages don’t seem to be major enough for them not to have been adopted so I don’t really know why they aren’t more popular. I can see the issue with developing countries and hydroponics though.

High inflation can be seen as an extrapolation of “more of the same”. People at the time widely expected inflation to continue as it had, and even the predictions of inflation falling in the book are quite modest, one being eight percent. This didn’t happen of course, because increasing unemployment was used as a policy to keep wages down and decrease the cost of production. Presumably at the time this was only theoretical or considered beyond the pale, or it may just simply be that at the time inflation was considered a fact of life. It’s very common for this to be assumed at the time and TVTropes even has a page on it. There’s also some disguised inflation, particularly in property prices and therefore the cost of accommodation, which tends to be excluded from quoted figures, so the true inflation rate is in fact higher than it seems.

Three-dimensional displays and holograms are another anomaly. The latter were popular at the time of writing, and ‘The History Of The Third Millennium’ published in 1986 used two as cover images. There was also experimental holographic cinema. It appears that for there to be actual displays like televisions and monitors, there would need to be very small rapidly moving parts, which may be the problem. Again, I’m not sure about this one. Still holograms in particular ought to have caught on more than they have, but in fact it seems to have been a limited fad. Lunar bases also haven’t happened, which is due to the curtailment of human space travel due to perceived high costs without much result and the fact that it has tended to be public sector.

Finally in the list of unfulfilled popular predictions is the reduction in average work hours. This hasn’t happened because of what’s been called the “bullshit jobs” phenomenon, when useless paid work increases, and because universal basic income hasn’t happened either. There’s also the usual prediction that school hours would shrink or reduce to nothing and be replaced by home ed, which I won’t be discussing here because I have a whole blog devoted to the matter. In a way, of course, this has now happened, though not in a very positive manner.

There’s also a number of popular accurate predictions. Top among these is the internet. The internet as a popular tool was predicted from as long ago as seven decades ago and is quite possibly the most predictable thing ever to have happened from the perspective of the mid-twentieth century. There are also several other inventions and facilities connected to this which are also widely predicted, including mainstream domestic waste recycling, Electronic Funds Transfer by consumers, video calling, ebooks and ebook readers, print on demand, online shopping, including for groceries, computers beating chess champions, pharmaceutical cognitive enhancement, the Hubble Space Telescope, the detection of exoplanets and a major nuclear power station disaster resulting in many losses of life in the mid-’80s. Another one which is kind of half-right and half-wrong is the widespread use of mobile ‘phones, which were of course expected to be worn on the wrist. Ultimate Black majority rule in South Africa was also popularly predicted, although like the collapse of the Soviet Union, also predicted by many, it was expected to happen much later than it in fact did. There isn’t much more to say about these predictions other than that they were correct, except that they share a feature with the more sporadic correct predictions.

This feature is that although there are many unequivocally correct predictions in the book, they tend to be dated much earlier than they in fact happened. A relevant statement is made about this too. One contributor made the observation that predictions for less than a decade in the future are usually too radical and those made for more than a decade in the future too conservative. This is borne out by the pattern in the book itself. Many things are predicted for the ’80s which did eventually happen but long after the end of that decade. On the other hand, the end of Apartheid and the Soviet Union are often either missed completely or dated much later than they actually happened. We can apply this idea to today when we look at scientific and technological predictions, that the dramatic, perhaps more hyped ones predicted today to occur by 2031 are going to be dated wrong but may well happen eventually, and that those expected after 2031 today (2021) will sometimes be correct but occur earlier when they are. This raises the question of what happens with the events predicted towards the beginning of that time, and it also suggests, as if it could be done that mathematically, that events predicted to be around a decade away are, if correct, the most likely to be accurately dated. Whereas this may not be so, it does suggest that an optimum period for accuracy could be calculated given enough predictions. It would also be surprising if predictions made for the following year are the least accurate. In fact, a popular date for correct but chronologically inaccurate predictions in the book is 1987, which is just over half a decade later than when they were made. The accuracy graph has a hump about five or six years down the line, declining towards ten years and then dropping below the X axis afterward.

A further pattern is that there are two types of people predicting correctly. One, rather small, set of people makes hit after hit, as if they’ve seen documentary footage of the history of the next fifty years. A much larger group has one or two hits. I’ll list some of the sporadically accurate predictions (by content rather than date) first:

  • Devolved local government, i.e. small “town halls” distributed throughout a district rather than in a single location.
  • New diseases due to environmental destruction. This is around the time AIDS was discovered but at that point it hadn’t been connected to deforestation.
  • The discovery of a new phylum of animals in the deep ocean.
  • Brain implants for neurological problems
  • An insulin pump
  • Drones
  • Self-driving cars
  • Computers more common than cars and used more than driving
  • “Communism” ends in the USSR, which then breaks up
  • Public-private partnerships and ’80s focus on the rôle of government in the economy
  • Biosphere II
  • Principles of social order become science-based rather than ethics-based
  • Video evidence and testimony admissible in court rooms (the first of these may change due to deepfakes)
  • An explosion in CGI animation in cinema
  • Online music libraries with agents recommending tracks and artists according to the consumer’s personal tastes
  • Reduction in inflation. Amazingly, only one person out of dozens made this correct prediction, and even the date is accurate.
  • Gated communities
  • A viral pandemic starting in the Far East which spreads throughout the world, predicted to occur in 2025.

There are also a few “super-predictors” – people who got almost everything right, though usually not in terms of the year they would happen. The crucial thing here is to try and work out what factors make these people so good at it, but before I get to them, I want to mention a few people who stand out. For me, two of them are Steve Wolfe and Roy Wysack, but I get the impression they’d prefer me not to discuss their predictions so I’m going to omit them apart from that mention, and in any case that’s because there’s a personal connection. There’s a rather sad list in hindsight made by Jim Fixx, who predicts among other things that he will compete in the Boston Marathon in 2030 at the age of ninety-eight. Rather oddly, the SF writer A E van Vogt appears to mention Jim Fixx’s death in the same volume, although it didn’t happen until 1984. Isaac Asimov, whom one might expect to be amazingly accurate, actually only got one thing right and that was the internet, which is such a widespread prediction as not to be remarkable at all. The overpopulation gurus Anne and Paul Ehrlich didn’t make one accurate prediction. The last honourable mention goes to Timothy Leary, who was laughably, ludicrously wrong about absolutely everything, and I can’t help but wonder if there’s a link to drug-taking there.

Onto the super-predictors then.

David Pearce Snyder is still active today and describes himself as a consulting futurist. He predicted nationwide EFT, software piracy, email scams, internet shopping, smart meters, the decline of small businesses due to online shopping, Chernobyl, the growth of small extremist political parties in the US, 9/11 (not in detail) and online courses. However, he also predicted that all of these things would come to pass by 1989. Even Chernobyl is predicted two years early.

Joseph Martino, who seems to have died recently, made a number of predictions regarding consumer ownership in terms of percentage of households owning particular products. These included 90% videodisc or equivalent ownership by 2006, which is probably accurate – he’s unwittingly talking about DVDs; 90% of correspondence by email by 2005; 90% professional use of internet journals by 2004 and 90% school access to the internet by 2001; 90% ownership of video games consoles by 1992 (actually probably the Sega Mega Drive); 90% of commerce by consumers by EFT by 1995 (the date is wrong here but it did happen). That’s a lot of “ninety percents”. These are all roughly correct, and it’s notable that he was able to predict accurately because he was approximate. He didn’t name the popular games consoles involved, was aware of the likelihood of a replacement to videodisc but didn’t know what it was and so forth, and this may be what helped his accuracy. However, it isn’t just vagueness which allows it to be fitted into the facts post hoc, but a kind of flexibility of imagination and openness to possibilities, which may be key to his success.

Andrei Sakharov is in there too, and was quite accurate. He successfully predicted the use of computers for accurate weather forecasting and protein folding, the invention of smart materials and the detection of exoplanets, which is a common prediction.

Bell Labs is not an individual but has a history of accurate prediction. They managed to predict personal ‘phone numbers (these exist but are also realised through mobile ‘phone use), the redundancy of professional telephone installers, the internet and voicemail services as opposed to answerphones.

Professor Garry Hunt is also still with us. He predicted the detection of a planet beyond Pluto (actually dwarf planets due to their redefinition but from a 1981 perspective this is correct), the discovery of rings around Neptune (I also expected this and by the time Voyager had found Jupiter’s rings it seems to be a bit of a no-brainer but it wouldn’t be scientific to have said this at the time), problems caused by space débris, Mars rovers (oddly very late on, in the late 2020s), non-attributable anthropogenic climate change, i.e. the stochastic increase of weather-related disasters which can be attributed as a group to climate change but in no individual cases, a decline in coal production and the rise of Zoom videoconferencing, obviously not under that name. You can learn more about him here.

Trudy E Bell and the SF author Ben Bova were both editors of the science magazine OMNI and the former also edited ‘Scientific American’. Between them, they predicted spacelab, non-scientists on space shuttle missions (nobody predicted the Challenger disaster incidentally), the absence of SETI results, space tourism by the rich and a US Space Force, i.e. Trump’s idea although I’m not clear what that is.

I’m going to take a break from this list to talk about the SETI predictions. Both Nigel Calder and Trudy E Bell predicted that SETI would be abandoned due to lack of positive results, but this has not happened. To be ad hominem for a second, Calder’s prediction was coupled with his dramatically incorrect and also politically incorrect prediction that anthropogenic climate change leading to overall warming would be soundly refuted. Whether or not you accept anthropogenic climate change (and it’s anti-scientific to reject it), it’s very clear that the majority of scientists and governments do, and if you like you can compare it to my own rejection of non-baryonic dark matter. I’m aware that the consensus is in favour of the existence of non-baryonic dark matter, but I might want to assert my belief that it doesn’t exist by claiming that it will be rejected within ten years. However, I very much doubt that it will be rejected, so it seems to me that Calder’s claim has an emotive element to it. Regarding SETI, do people know what that is? Just in case you don’t, SETI is the Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence, mainly via attempting to detect radio signals although there are other data such as attempting to find megastructures being built around Sun-like stars. The most positive result is from the “Wow!” signal, which predates the book. It’s been noted since 1981 that the interval during which detectable significant radio signals would be transmitted would be very short compared to the length of a civilisation’s history. We no longer use analogue signals much in the developed world (I don’t know how things are elsewhere) and this was not appreciated at the time of publication. That said, it’s equally possible that we’re all just in denial about it. Also, accidentally transmitted signals from our planet don’t reach as far as Proxima Centauri and it’s also been suggested that for all we know, other civilisations use zeta rays, which we have yet to discover. Hard to say really what’s going on.

It was G. Harry Stine, now long-since deceased, who contrasted short- and long-term predictions and also said he made forecasts rather than predictions. It’s therefore ironic that he managed to be a super-predictor. He predicted the internet, new light-weight structural materials (such as carbon and boron nitride nanotubes), electronic picture frames, landscape channels, large flat-screen displays, cognition-enhancing drugs, transgenic babies and the electronic alteration of brain function. Stine was involved in model rocketry, a SF author, libertarian activist and was instrumental in the development of the Strategic Defense Initiative. Hence he was in a position close to government policy and also technology and speculative fiction, and maybe it was this combination which made him such a good predictor.

Roy Mason, as an architect an example of nominative determinism, was quite successful. He predicted domestic internet access, working from home and large flat display screens with scenic displays (and it occurs to me now that this is actually what we later called “desktop wallpaper”). Marvin Adelson, a name which may be incorrect, predicted computer simulation and mockups of planned buildings, poor people living as caretakers in largely empty buildings and innovative spectacular architecture in oil states.

Then there’s the sexologist and psychotherapist Albert Ellis, who is generally spot-on about everything in his own area of expertise. In his case I get the impression that he was one of the movers who helped create the world as it is today in sexual terms, which is why he’s so accurate. It’s kind of him doing this, almost as if he just published his agenda to the world and said, “this is what I’ll be doing for the rest of my life”, which ended in 2007. He predicted no guilt about masturbation by 1992 along with less than ten percent of people feeling guilt about premarital sex, the routine use of condoms to prevent STDs and millions of people leaving orthodox religion because of its prudishness and prejudices about sex. By 2000, most couples would cohabit before marriage. In 2010, most faith groups would be more liberal about sex, and by 2020, 85% of married women and 90% of married men would have had pre-marital sex. He didn’t make a single incorrect prediction.

Charlie Gillett, a music journalist, predicted the rise of independent record labels in the ’80s, increased popularity of world music in the West and online music libraries from the 1990s. Again, he was correct, but he also made a prediction about music tracks missing a single instrument which the listener could play along to with theirs, which is similar to karaoke but if it happened, didn’t become popular. Gillett would’ve got to see these things come to pass as he died in 2010.

After this lot come the psychics, and you might expect them to have posted a load of rubbish, but this is actually not so. A disparate group of people have been lumped together here and it’s notable that the astrologer Andrew Reiss didn’t get anything right, but the actual people claimed to be psychics didn’t do too badly. Bertie Catchings had quite a few misses, but also followed the usual pattern of getting things correct but placing them too early. These included satnav, GPS use by the public, Google Earth, a data TV channel, ubiquitous mobile ‘phones by 1990 (actual handheld ‘phones this time rather than the usual wristwatch device prediction), computerised address and ‘phone directories and tags for lost children (which are actually really mobile ‘phones again). Ann Fisher got gated communities correct and similar fortress-like protection for corporate headquarters. One Francine Steiger successfully predicted domestic biomasse fuel. Beverly Jaegers is an interesting one. She was an ex-sceptic who described herself as having received “no fall on the head”, having “no special powers” but was “just a person who tried and found she could do it”. Consequently it isn’t clear exactly what’s going on with her and it probably merits further exposition. She predicted laser surgery, insulin pumps and liver transplants. Jaegers claims that psychic abilities are in everyone and can be brought out via training and hard work, which is a very appealing line. One would want to believe it was true, but it’s still interesting that she had moved from scepticism to belief. It seems plausible to me that there might be a way to work on data received via the senses subconsciously to form some kind of Gestalt which turns out to be so. Psi as in extrasensory perception might not be required. It could be more than guessing, detailed and uncannily accurate.

Here are a couple more superpredictors. Ian Miles predicted Madonna-style eroticism in fashion, dyed hair, ebook readers (using cassettes though) linkable to home micros, questions over the intrusion of video into privacy and the existence of special interest groups around niche porn and also child sexual abuse rings. Also, he foresaw multimedia PCs with internet access.

The last person I want to consider is one Arnold Brown, co-chair of an “invisible college” of corporate futurists and planners. Again, this person might be a bit like Alfred Ellis, in that he had his finger on the pulse of actual future planning, which raises the question of whether he was in fact reporting on some kind of plan which has been successfully realised. He predicted the idea of retro charm and the collector’s item status of any manufactured item pre-dating 1945, interactive TV, pay TV, electronic games, video discs, minicameras, home computers, the internet, online retail catalogues, online grocery shopping, internet banking and the end of print encyclopædias. He specifically mentions ‘The Book Of Predictions’ as something which would be superceded by online sources, and may well have had the books of lists in mind as well. Besides all that, he also envisaged the rise of extreme sports, the decline of paper book, newspaper and magazine publishing and self-driving cars.

There’s also an article on a Central Premonitions Registry, which is of considerable interest. The founder, Robert Nelson, had to sift through huge quantities of rubbish and religious rants against what he was doing, and found his work quite depressing as it involved endless doom mongery from the general public, but his aim was to find reliable predictors. One of them is included in the book, but only got one prediction correct – inflation falling to eight percent. However, he does mention one person who was quite remarkable. Arlene Handy was a poorly educated and barely literate woman whose letters were almost illegible. She claimed to be visited regularly by two spirits in her dreams who show her the future in her dreams. In the twelve years she wrote to Nelson, every prediction was wrong or impossible to understand except one. On 16th February 1973, she dreams that two figures in white turbans climbed over a two metre high fence in Khartoum and killed an American ambassador. On 2nd March that year, Cleo A Noel Jr, US ambassador to Sudan, was assassinated by two members of the Black September Movement after being kidnapped, with the details as predicted. So, the question arises, was this just pareidolia after the fact, a case of a hit due to sheer volume of material?

In 1982, OMNI reported that the most successful predictors were those who used both hemispheres of their brains to do so. Whereas this partakes of the whole hemisphericity myth, it’s possible to salvage something from this, and not absolutely necessary to posit precognitive abilities. What it means is that if you want to make a high proportion of successful predictions, your best bet would be to use both intuition, imagination and hunches and analysis, logic and extrapolation, i.e. the supposèd right and left brain functions. This sounds like good advice. The best strategies for successful prediction, or rather perceived successful prediction, are not the same as the best approach to real success in this area. It’s possible to make a large number of vague predictions, and then some of them will turn out to sound as if they’re correct. On the other hand, a degree of vagueness in the right way is not the same as dishonesty, but recognises that the future is substantially unknown, so for example the prediction of video on demand tailored to the user, made in this book, is essentially YouTube, but it’s an achievement to abstract it sufficiently from what was possible or thought of at the time to predict what would actually happen. Similarly with agents which choose content based on one’s previous preferences. Neither of these are dependent on knowing the details of internet browsers or web servers, but they are nonetheless significantly accurate almost because they’re vague, and that vagueness is not cheating which allows anyone to read something into the prediction with hindsight. If you are in some way embedded in a particular field, it seems that you’re likely to be good at making predictions in that field. This is true, for example, of Alfred Ellis and Arnold Brown. On the other hand, if the CIA guy can be taken at his word, he was heavily involved in intelligence work and it almost seems that it was that that led to him being unable to see the wood for the trees and making phenomenally incorrect forecasts about the state of the world. It’s also notable that some of the things everyone expects to happen really do happen, and nobody is really surprised, but maybe about half of the events most people would agree are bound to happen actually don’t, and it’s worth asking what the differences are between those two categories. It’s also important to be detached from one’s prejudices. Several of the most accurate predictors on here have a background which I find completely incompatible with my values, and on the other side, there appear to be, for whatever reason, accurate predictors who say they’re psychic, which would be hard for someone to swallow if they were of K-skeptical bent.

For what it’s worth, I do believe in precognition as a psionic ability as opposed to being merely a talent for guessing the future accurately based on rational processes resulting from information received through the scientifically recognised senses. The reason I believe this is that there are various events for which this is the simplest explanation, and up until fairly recently, the possibility that psionics exists was taken seriously in academia. The fact that it isn’t currently doesn’t make it any less valid. I’ve noticed other reviews of this book tend not to accept its accuracy in some areas. For instance, there’s a review on Goodreads which says only two percent of the predictions are correct, and this is a major underestimate. It’s also useful as a pointer to the superpredictors, and it’s worth listening to those who are still around and reading what else those who have passed on have to say, and also examining their lives, to work out what makes a good predictor. Hence the book is still worthwhile, and will doubtless still be in 2031 by which time the term will mainly have run its course.

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