TIME MAGAZINE: PREDICTIONS ABOUT PREDICTIONS IN 2017:
WITH THE HELP OF LISA VANDERPUMP
BY JOEL STEIN 12.19.2016
While 2016 was a horrible year for predictions—Brexit! Trump! FARC plebiscite! Leicester City! The Game of Thrones guy who deserved to die but no one thought would die and was finally killed by that other Game of Thrones guy!—that is not going to stop me from making prognostications. In fact, I feel very confident about my first prediction: 2017 is going to be a horrible year for predictions.
I also predict that Warren Hatch, a superpredictor who is a senior vice president of a forecasting consulting firm, will not be making predictions in this column like he did last year. Sure, he admitted to me that forecasters “took a few lumps” this past year, but he said increased global uncertainty only makes expert predictions more important. Then he defended oddsmakers who gave Clinton huge odds to beat Trump by arguing that “events with a 1-in-4 chance of happening are supposed to happen 1 in 4 times, so the election was far from a failure for those who didn’t put his chances below 1%.” That’s exactly the kind of academic mumbo jumbo designed to misdirect us from the fact that the elites know nothing.
So in 2017, I’m turning to people with common sense who speak truth from their guts and have the guts to speak common truth from their sense. Good people who don’t worry about whether their sentences are coherent as long as they sound good.
I recruited Lisa Vanderpump, the restaurant-owning star of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and Vanderpump Rules, who has delivered such hard truths as “People are replaceable, and they need to know that,” and “You’re not important enough to hate.” She gets her intel not from big data but from real people. “When you’re in the restaurant industry, you’re around a lot of people and get a great pulse reading. I hear things before they hit the tabloids. I see the person out of rehab who orders a Diet Coke with a slip of vodka in it,” she explained. Unlike Nate Silver, she won thousands of dollars in bets with friends by predicting that Trump would win, based on what she heard drunk people saying.
For 2017, Vanderpump predicts that Trump will soften stances he took during the campaign: “He’ll be more moderate than people thought. He’s not so worried about the morality laws, like with the LGBT community. He’s more worried about the trade deals.” She thinks his Supreme Court pick will not come from the list he released during the campaign. “He’s chosen me to be a judge in the Miss Universe contest several times. He’s invested in my judicial prowess,” she said, before sending me a photo of the 45th President of the United States holding her dog Giggy, a tuxedoed Pomeranian that is so tiny, it makes his hands look big.
In technology, Vanderpump sees massive changes: “We’re going to have radar-based sensors so we can find a parking space. Imagine: you plug in to your phone and find your car-parking space. That’s cool.” In economics, department stores will suffer, with a few big ones going bust. The price of oil will increase. WikiLeaks will dump more files. Veganism will become more popular. George Clooney will run for office. Fashion will become glitzier.
A surprising number of Vanderpump’s predictions centered on dog eating. She thinks Congress will pass HR 752, a bill she got Florida Representative Alcee Hastings to sponsor that would scold China for holding the annual Lychee and Dog Meat Festival in Yulin. She has taken a harsh Trumpian stance against China, though I think it would be more effective to simply stress how great lychees taste by themselves.
Although Vanderpump’s guesses were even smarter than I’d hoped, I don’t have a lot of faith in predictions anymore, since they’re based on historical data and can’t calculate for huge new events. So the only 2017 prediction I feel totally comfortable making is that we’re going to hear an unprecedented amount of the word unprecedented.
This appears in the December 26, 2016 edition of TIME Magazine