How to predict the future

Recently, I saw a post about prophecies about the future made by a woman called Baba Vanga. You can take a look at the following picture to read more about said prophecies, but here is a short version:

2018: China becomes the world’s new great power
2023: The earth orbit will have a slight change
2076: The world will adopt communism
2111: People become robots
2288: Time travel is created
4599: Humanity becomes immortal
5079: End of the world
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If we analyse this predictions, it is noticeable that they are very general and platitudes in the beginning but become more precise and amazing at the end. Let’s take a look at the first one: China will be the next super power. You don’t say! If we take a look at the GDP trend of China and the USA, we will see that simple data analysis can predict this development very clearly.

Next one: 2023 the earth orbit will have a slight change. Actually, the earth orbit changes constantly. One reason for this are the Milankovitch cycles – named after the Serbian astronomer Milutin Milanković. He proofed mathematically that solar radiation has a direct influence to apsidal precession and a change of precession (“change in the orientation of the rotational axis of a rotating body” – Wikipedia). This means: It is no surprise that earth orbit changes, it would rather be a surprise if it doesn’t.

Now the last two: 4599, humanity becomes immortal. Wow! Maybe true, maybe false. And that’s the point: We will all be dead in 4599 (at least the people who read her prophecies now) so we won’t be able to judge Baba Vanga if she was wrong. Same with the statement that world will end in 5079 –  we will not be on earth anymore to proof this, so she could have said literally anything!
This pattern is present in every prediction: Make general prophecies about the near future (so you can “proof” that you are a real psychic and people listen to you) but amazing and unrealistic prophecies about the future far away (so people will be amazed and entertained). The idea of telling truisms in a way they sound like supernatural talents to others is called Barnum effect. It’s the same like horoscopes work: You don’t make a prediction like: Tomorrow you’ll meet a millionaire and you will marry him later. You say: In the next days, you’ll meet a very influential personality and BAM!, this prediction will be true no matter what (we meet influential people every day, most of the time without knowing it. And furthemore: What does “influential” mean…?)

So, to be a good psychic, don’t be specific (at least not in predictions for the near future). And always tell entertaining and shocking things. No one want’s to hear that the world will look like always in 5059 (even if this is more likely than a sudden end of the world).

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