As I look back on my New Years’ columns over these last many years, I might as well have been writing in disappearing ink. Pretty much nothing I expected came to pass, and a whole lot of stuff I never saw coming changed my life and yours, too.
So why even try to predict? It’s in our DNA, I suppose, conferring the illusion of control when we have none.
Bullish? Bearish? Last week the big dailies posted predictions for the markets. Inflation, recession, deflation, higher mortgage rates? Columnist Jeff Sommer wrote in The New York Times: “It’s simply impossible to forecast the path of the markets six months or a year ahead with accuracy and consistency, as many academic studies have shown. That the financial services industry continues to label these unreliable numbers as forecasts is a triumph of breathtaking chutzpah — a technical term for shameless audacity.”
Which leads me to predict that the value of their elaborate algorithmic studies is and will be zero.
With that as a caveat, let me hope rather than predict that we will not have a recession; that the markets will rally in 2023 and, somehow, all the thousands of people who are literally dying to get into our country will be matched with all the jobs that are begging to be filled.
In politics, too, the prediction business is bust. We — all of us — lived through the 2016 presidential election, in which pretty much everyone with an opinion, from columnists to people on the street to professional pollsters to Las Vegas bookies and even many supporters of Donald Trump, absolutely did not believe that he would or could win. How many times did we hear pundits say that his path to victory was slim to none? How much airtime and ink were wasted on the assumption of a Hillary Clinton victory and how that would play out? Folks thought DJT would ride that escalator into oblivion.
The very least we could take away from that election was healthy skepticism. Pollsters, even the academic know-it-alls, have little success predicting the results of an election or anything else.
Will Covid surge again? Will some new bug emerge from the virulent epidemic in China? I wonder if Kim Jung-un will hold on to his rockets or let them fly. When will Ukraine find peace, and will it be before Putin snaps? How will our children and teenagers recover from the grief and academic setbacks of the pandemic lockdown? When can we feel safe in our lives again?
On New Year’s Eve we toasted 2023 with wishes for good health and peace on earth and peace of mind. Wishes. As hostages to fate and dysfunctional politics, that’s the best we can do. We humans have never tolerated the existential uncertainty of being a person alive on earth. So we turn to exit polls and Svengalis and any grifter who hangs out a palm-reading sign. The truth? I’m even down on Punxsutawney Phil.
In our personal lives, it’s painful to accept that we cannot know what the future will bring. Life reads like a mystery, not an itinerary. We can’t know what comes next or if we’ll make an appearance in the next chapter.
The track record of clairvoyants is abysmal.
No one, except for Bill Gates and some epidemiologists who were ignored, predicted the greatest catastrophe of our lifetime, the coronavirus pandemic, the more than 1 million deaths here at home and more than 6 million deaths worldwide.
Everyone predicted a huge Republican sweep in the midterms, and that didn’t happen. And with the MAGA loonies running the GOP, to predict what will happen in 2023 would be folly indeed.
I can’t and won’t believe anyone who ever again purports to know the future of an election or an economy or the course of a disease or the likelihood of an earthquake striking any particular location at any particular time.
We are in the game, and it changes day to day.
Yearning for a seed of certainty, yesterday I booked a hotel in Dallas for April 8, 2024, when a full solar eclipse will be seen for two minutes and 20 seconds. I predict, with 100 percent certainty, that it will occur.
What isn’t sure is if I will get to see it. There may be clouds overhead, or clouds in my life. I am choosing to have faith that the eclipse will occur as scheduled, on April 8 in Dallas. I plan to be there. It’s a small thing, but I’m counting on it.
Copyright 2023 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.