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Don't bet on it: These 2015 predictions were way off base

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It's that time of year again, when everyone starts pushing out their predictions for next year. (And yes, that includes this organization.) Some 2016 predictions are already out, such as those at Fortune and Macworld.

But let's face it: Most of those predictions end up being wrong. We can be safe in taking them with a (giant) grain of salt — or perhaps discounting them altogether.

For reference, here's a sampling of predictions put out last December, trying to forecast what would happen this year.

Fortune said the S&P 500 would close the year at 2312, but we can safely say that's not going to happen (The index closed Friday just below 2100). It also predicted "mom jeans get hot" (needless to say they didn't) and "football helmets get a lot more futuristic."

Then there are vague predictions, that you can't exactly measure or give a precise result for. The Atlantic offered "4 expert predictions for the global economy in 2015", yet each prediction was a story at least five paragraphs long. One of the predictions said the US faces a debt "reckoning" —but that didn't really happen, did it?

Looking at other amorphous forecasts, Wired suggested more businesses will "get more creative in business education innovation for their workforces." One specific was "many will increase company-based educational materials and reference libraries." Is there even a way to measure that, verify that, or accurately say whether that happened?

University of Pennsylvania professor Philip Tetlock is well-known for his research on predictions, and how most of them are wrong. Tetlock often focuses on international and domestic political developments.

An example of a bad political prediction? Consider this Reuters story from last December, claiming Jeb Bush would run for the GOP nomination...and win.

The article specifically said "Bush will end 2015 as the Republican frontrunner — but only narrowly." Despite the super specific prediction (the word "narrowly"), this prediction was far off base. The same article did predict Clinton would be the Democratic frontrunner.

With all due respect for the writers who pull together these lists, people shouldn't consider these stories as real predictions for the next year. Instead, they reflect a variety of approaches: consensus thinking, a continuation (or the end) of trends, and wishful thinking. It's entirely possible that the writers of these stories take them even less seriously than readers might.

What should people do in the wake of all the stories that are about to come? Maybe they should keep them in a time capsule and go back a year later to see what happened. It tells you a lot about how unpredictable the world really is.

Think about the biggest events of 2015 — almost none of them were predicted on anybody's list. The one takeaway is that life is less predictable than you think.