When challenged to predict the sporting year ahead, I took up the challenge. Now let’s look back.
My esteemed editor thought it a good idea to make some predictions earlier in the year, so how close did I get to the mark?
Nothing if not brave (or obedient), I suggested after round one that “Souths have justified their favouritism and are the early benchmark”. So far, so good, but then I had to mess it up with “the Bulldogs didn’t do enough to instil too much fear in upcoming opponents”. Mmm. James Graham and company had other thoughts and I made the mistake of betting against Des Hasler. Mind you, as impressive as Souths were in the grand final, Canterbury brought little to the table except courage which, by itself, is rarely enough.
There were some highs: “Penrith might be the ones to surprise” and “The Broncos should finish bottom half of the top eight”, but then I ruined it with “The Titans might do better than expected”. Whoops. Things might get even worse for the Gold Coast next year.
My Aussie rules, netball, cricket and soccer forecasts were equally mixed but the real doozy was saying of The Queensland Reds that “they have what it takes to go all the way”. Well, I guess they did — to the bottom. Mind you, Rugby has become so frustrating and the refs so pedantic at least I was spared the pain of actually watching.
Not to worry. History is littered with confident predictions falling wide of the mark. There are all the famous ones, like The Beatles would never make it and the world only needed five computers. The arrival of the motor car was greeted with warnings of their speed (about 10 kph) and danger. Horses would prevail.
One of my favourites goes back to 1896 when the head of the US Patents Office, Charles Duell, asked people to stop sending him copyright requests because everything that could be invented had been. End of a tough week, perhaps.
He’s not alone, though. An American university once gathered 300 experts in a variety of fields and asked for their thoughts on upcoming events in their area of speciality. Less than half were correct. Stock tipsters have a similar strike rate. This experiment, by the way, was conducted by Phillip Tetlock, who concluded that 96 per cent of the brightest of the bright thought they knew more than they actually knew.
In any field — or life — that can be dangerous. Worth keeping in mind as we are increasingly warned and urged by “experts” who have created fiefdoms to perpetuate their “expertise”.
Paul Krugman is one of the world’s most esteemed economists and, to be fair, his analysis of Government policies since the GFC (both in the US and Europe) has been outstanding. Indeed, some years back he was awarded the equivalent of the Nobel Prize, but even the smartest have problems with the future.
Krugman was once asked what the impact of the Internet would be on the economy and technology . He used an old (and flawed) concept to argue that by 2005 its use would begin to decline and the overall effect would be no greater than that of the fax machine.
Well, at last count Google and Facebook alone were worth an estimated $900 billion. Throw in Amazon and you are up to $1.3 trillion, a figure greater than the GDPs of all but the most powerful 18 countries in the world.
Humility is no bad thing. For scientists, economists… and sports tipsters.