Every year at about this time, Australia’s psychic fraternity make their New Year’s predictions for the coming year. And every year they get it mostly wrong. But they are never held to account, their homework is never marked, and they’re simply back again in 12 months to make more wrong predictions.
The “best” of them even publish their predictions in the Australian Psychic Directory (now, for some reason, called the International Psychic Directory).
Richard Saunders, investigator with Australian Skeptics Inc, points out that “We’ve been monitoring this panoply of psychic silliness for years, and by our calculations only about 5% of predictions ever have any element of truth – about what you would get from simply guessing. And even most of those are either obvious (“There will be an earthquake somewhere in the world”) or vague (“There will be interesting developments in the relationship between Will and Kate”).
“If they have one accurate hit on a specific prediction, it’s probably more good luck than good judgement, but the psychic will dine out on that for the rest of their life,” Saunders said.
“Some people may say that these predictions are only for entertainment, and shouldn’t be taken too seriously. But these people charge money – often big money – for their services. If your mechanic or brain surgeon was right only 5% of the time, you’d probably look for a different mechanic or brain surgeon. If all mechanics or brain surgeons were right only 5% of the time, you’d probably start to doubt the whole industry.
“We’ve issued a challenge to any Australian psychic who can strut their stuff, and we’re offering $100,000 to anyone who can prove their predictive skills. To date, no-one has applied. Who would have predicted that?”
Anyway, never being people who show fear in the face of futility, this year Australian Skeptics has decided to join the throng, and make our own incorrect, vague or obvious predictions …and one correct one.
Prediction 1: “There will be an earthquake somewhere in the world.”
Reality: The US National Earthquake Information Centre estimates that several million earthquakes occur in the world each year. Many go undetected because they hit remote areas or have very small magnitudes. The average number of earthquakes of Magnitude 5 and over for the last 100 years is 1319pa. That’s 3.6 every day.
Prediction 2: “There will be interesting developments in the relationship between Will and Kate”
Reality: Really? Good or bad?
Prediction 3: “Malcolm Turnbull’s popularity will decrease early in 2016, and that of Bill Shorten will increase, but not by as much.”
Reality: “Who’s not predicting this? My cat is predicting this, and she’s not very well.”
Prediction 4: “There will be a Federal election in the second half of 2016.”
Reality: It has to be in 2016, and whether first half or second half is a 50/50 chance. But if Prediction 3 is correct, then it’s pretty much a certainty to be in the second half.
Prediction 5: “The 2016 Budget will receive a lukewarm response.”
Reality: If Predictions 3 and 4 are correct, then this will be a “responsible” pre-election Budget, ie OK but not overly generous.
Prediction 6: “There will be a major ferry disaster in the Northern Hemisphere in 2016.”
Reality: There have been more than 50 maritime disasters with significant loss of life in the last 15 years. The vast majority of those were in the Northern Hemisphere. But psychics are notoriously geographically-challenged. They will claim any prediction anywhere, and find some reason why they were close.
Prediction 7: “Brad and Angelina will break up, and Angelina will retire from movie-making.”
Reality: The breakup of Brangelina is predicted every year, but note that “retire from movie-making” might mean her directing career rather than her acting.
Prediction 8: “John Howard (the actor, not the former PM) will be involved in a car accident in Victoria in May. He will be shaken but unhurt.”
Reality: A specific prediction! Yay! If it turns out to be true, we’re made for life. But there are a few outs – it might actually turn out to be the ex-PM, it might be near Victoria (NSW, SA, Tasmania, ACT – see geographically-challenged above), or it might be June or April (temporally-challenged as well). With psychics, near enough is close enough.
Prediction 9: “A much loved member of the Royal family will leave us in 2016 and there will be much sadness.”
Reality: Which Royal family? Surely not Denmark! Japan? Leaves it wide open to post-facto claims of accuracy. Now, had you said the British Royal family …
Prediction 10: “The vast majority of Australian psychics will get the vast majority of their predictions wrong.”
Reality: This is the accurate one. A guaranteed winner.
And one for good measure: The open mic prediction.
Reality: Make up your own. It is just as likely to be correct as the ‘professionals’.