A Pessimist’s Guide to the World in 2016

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Date of prediction: 2015-12-15

Bloomberg had several pessimist scenarios for 2016:

»Oil prices soar after Islamic State destroys facilities across the Middle East. Angela Merkel is forced to resign, throwing the European Union into disarray. The dollar slumps as Russian and Iranian hackers team up to launch cyber-attacks on U.S banks.«

(Bloomberg News: A Pessimist’s Guide to the World in 2016)

The wise man does not predict, he discusses scenarios. A scenario cannot be wrong, even if it is.

Oil crisis in 2013

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Date of prediction: 2009-02-28

According to a report of Spiegel Online the International Energy Agency (IEA) has warned about a possible world-wide economic crisis in 2013 due to shortages in oil supply. Low prices in 2009 keep oil compnaies from investing. Once the current financial crisis is over, demand might rise while supply doesn’t. Oil prices might reach $200 per barrel in 2013.

Looking Back on the Limits of Growth

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Date of prediction: 1972

The Limits of Growth predicted in 1972 that the world was headed for disaster. Fast forward to 40 years later, a.k.a. today:

»Recent research supports the conclusions of a controversial environmental study released 40 years ago: The world is on track for disaster. So says Australian physicist Graham Turner, who revisited perhaps the most groundbreaking academic work of the 1970s,The Limits to Growth.

However, the study also noted that unlimited economic growth was possible, if governments forged policies and invested in technologies to regulate the expansion of humanity’s ecological footprint.«

(Smithsonian Magazine: Looking Back on the Limits of Growth)

Meta: A persistent failed prediction

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»The highly influential Essay on the Principle of Population, written by Englishman Robert Malthus in 1798, predicted that population would outrun food supply before the end of the nineteenth century. His basic view was that population, if unchecked, increases exponentially, at a geometric rate, whereas the food supply grows in a linear fashion, at an arithmetic rate.
(…)
Nevertheless, there have been other recent well-known works along similar lines to Malthus. These include The Limits of Growth, the world’s best-selling environmental book, published in 1972, which modelled the consequences of rapidly growing world population given finite resource supplies, and The Population Bomb, which predicted that hundreds of millions of people would starve to death in the 1970s and 1980s. At the time there was no shortage of criticism of the books, and both appeared on lists of the century’s worst books made at the turn of the millennium.«

(S. Brisoce & H. Aldersey-Williams: Panicology. Penguin Viking, 2008)