In January 2013, I made these predictions (actual outcomes follow each prediction in bold):
· Iraq will continue to move toward dictatorship and relations between the Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds will become increasingly fractious. The U.S. occupation of Afghanistan will almost have ended; Afghanistan will remain a lawless, chaotic country. Pakistan will also become progressively more unstable. (Sadly, this prediction has proven correct; the trajectory for these countries remains unchanged in 2014.)
· The U.S. will go over the fiscal cliff it faces at the end of 2012, and then Congress will raise taxes on the wealthiest 2% but largely leave taxes on the 98% at or near 2012 levels. Congress will cut Medicare and other entitlement programs, but not Social Security, to reduce spending and the deficit. (I was wrong: Congress did shut down the federal government in the autumn, but taxes remain largely unchanged. Sequestration reduced government spending but allowed Congress to avoid difficult, long-term financial decisions.)
· The major stock market indices (Dow Jones, S&P 500, NASDAQ, Russell 2000) will advance 8-10%. (I was wrong – hallelujah! The major stock indices rose more than 20%, resulting in a very good year for the affluent and for many people with money in retirement accounts.)
· The U.S. economy will continue to improve – gradually. Going over the fiscal cliff will cause problems, but by the end of the year unemployment will again be declining. (I was right: the economy improved in 2014.)
· The Supreme Court will strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act but duck the larger questions of whether states must recognize same-sex marriage to ensure equal protection and rights for all. (I was partially right. The Supreme Court decided the cases on narrow grounds, but appellate courts are slowly striking down as unconstitutional state laws and bans on same sex marriage.)
· Church attendance and belief in God will continue to decline. (Unfortunately, I was right; belief continues to decline.)
· Global warming will continue, as will an increased number of natural disasters caused by climate change. No major war will break out. The world will not end. (I was right on all of these predictions, though I would have happily been wrong about the continuation of global warming.)
Overall, I got five of seven predictions correct.
How accurate were your predictions for 2013?
Making predictions is more than a parlor game. Our predictions – what we think will happen in the future – influences many of the decisions that we will make, e.g., economic optimism may lead one to risk changing jobs, starting a business, or making riskier investments than one would otherwise choose. In the extreme, a person who predicts that the end of the world will come in the year ahead – and who actually believes that prediction – may sell all of her/his possessions to live on the proceeds and have time for more important activities (cf. Acts 4 for an example of this) or engage in other, similarly radical behaviors.
Reviewing the accuracy of one's predictions for the future is a useful reality check. Are your decisions, your choices, in line with reality or are you acting in ways that conflict with what really is?
Sometimes, acting in ways that conflict with what is can bring about helpful changes, e.g., this is one of the premises of positive thinking and of some approaches to behavioral therapy. Often, however, acting in ways that conflict with the way the world is sets one up for disappointment, heartbreak, or failure. In an extreme case, a person who acts on unrealistic predictions about the future exhibits psychotic behavior, i.e., behavior disconnected from reality.
In my next post, I'll boldly make some predictions for 2014.