On Friday morning I was listening to a radio phone-in when the presenter said, “Please, no more calls about a Brexit deal…!” He then went on to say “We have no way of knowing what will or won’t be decided. There are a bunch of people locked in a room talking, and until they come out and tell us what has happened, there’s no point in us predicting anything.”
The day before, like I do every year, I bought an annual publication from The Economist magazine which they publish just before Christmas. “The World in 2021” tries to predict what we are going to be facing in the coming 12 months. I bought “The World in 2020” last November and the predictions in it are just way out — not a mention of COVID or lockdowns…!
Even with all their expertise in the Economist Intelligence Unit and their access to world experts, their ability to predict the future, just a few months ahead, was woefully inadequate.
In a couple of weeks from now, as we approach 2021, you will be able to buy magazines with your “Stars for the New Year” written by a famous astrologer. I remember a few years ago a national newspaper published the “Stars for the New Year” as usual. They discovered that they were identical to what they had printed exactly 12 months beforehand. Their resident TV astrologer said the predictions were the same “because the stars hadn’t moved much over the year”. Mmmm…that suggests he had little understanding of astronomy as well.
I used to provide consultancy to the Met Office down in Exeter. I was very excited when I first went to their fabulous building (it really is lovely) because they were going to show me their “supercomputer”. It is one of the biggest in the world and can complete 14,000 Trillion calculations per second. Oh, and they have two of these machines because one is a backup. Yet even with this £1bn device, predicting the weather is not entirely accurate. You may have seen TV weather presenters being asked “will we have a white Christmas” and they say “it’s too early to say just yet”. That’s because even with fantastic technology and the best meteorological brains on the planet, they are only 50–50 right with weather forecasting ten days ahead. They even have a one in ten chance of getting their predictions wrong — on the same day…!