2010 has ended and the pundits are lining up to tell us whats going to happen in the one to follow. And why not? People want to hear predictions. And for the expert, theres no way he can lose. If the prediction hits, he can boast about it and reporters will cite it as proof of his wisdom. But if it misses, no one will ever hear about it again. Heads, I win. Tails, you forget we had a bet. Of course, the rules of the game would be a little different if, at the end of the year, instead of asking for new predictions, we looked back at what was predicted to happen in the year ending. Think of it as holding people to account for the predictions they make. So lets get on with the humiliation. Whoah Did I write that? I meant fair and judicious review of past predictions. Or, as this exercise might more accurately be described, a bunch of predictions presented in no particular order and selected for no reason other than that they made me smile. In a German aquarium, Paul the Octopus nailed all eight of his predictions for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. In doing so, Paul either demonstrated successful predictions are often the product of nothing more than dumb luck, or he proved that octopi are a vastly superior species. There will be blood, Harvard history professor and global guru Niall Ferguson told the Globe and Mail in February, 2009. The economic crisis was at its worst and Ferguson was sure he knew what it would unleash. A crisis of this magnitude is bound to increase political as well as economic [conflict]. It is bound to destabilise some countries. It will cause civil wars to break out, that have been dormant. It will topple governments that were moderate and bring in governments that are extreme. These things are pretty predictable. Fergusons comments got a lot of attention around the world. And then they were forgotten. Which is fortunate for Ferguson. The economic crisis that started in 2008 had a strong negative impact on parts of the developing world, but did not lead to the expected increase in political violence, notes a dispatch from The Human Security Report Project, an independent research centre affiliated with Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. Former White House counter-terrorism official Richard Clarke was even scarier than Niall Ferguson when he took to the pages of the Atlantic Monthly in January, 2005. Imagining an address by an imaginary professor looking back on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Clarke detailed a cascade of disasters, each worse than the last, that culminates in the horrific year 2010. A wave of bombings at casinos, shopping malls and subways. Muslims sent to detention camps. Shoulder-launched missiles knocking out jetliners. American transportation grinding to a halt, and the American economy with it. Catastrophic attacks on chemical plants. A coup in Saudi Arabia. A worldwide global depression. Martial law in the US. None of it happened. Except that last bit, almost. But the terrorists responsible for that wore pinstripes. And they didnt have the decency to blow themselves up. In 2010, a Japanese bank foreclosed on the White House, and the US became a wholly owned subsidiary of Japan Inc. Or rather, that would have happened in 2010 if the predictions made by hordes of experts in the late 1980s and early 1990s had come true. But they didnt. In fact, in 2010, Japan fell from second to third spot in the ranking of the worlds largest economies. It was passed by China. And today, all the experts know its only a matter of time before China bumps the US from the top spot - notwithstanding the fact that they said exactly the same thing about Japan 20 years ago. But dont forget the dark horse in this race. In the 11th edition of Paul Samuelsons classic economics textbook, published in 1980, the renowned economist had a chart which shows that sometime around 2011 the economy of the US will be surpassed by that of the Soviet Union. The range of estimates shown here can make no claim to nice accuracy, wrote Samuelson, but they do represent the spread of best expert opinion. Indeed. In his hugely influential 1999 New York Times best-seller, Head to Head: The Coming Economic Battle Among Japan, Europe and America, MIT economist Lester Thurow assured readers that China will not have a big impact on the world economy in the first half of the 21st century. In 2010, Chinas booming economy was the envy of the world, Chinese bankers kept the US afloat and Thurows call was officially inducted into the Failed Predictions Hall of Fame. I believe we will see the outbreak of civil disturbance at many levels in 2010, wrote James Howard Kunstler, author of The Long Emergency (2005) and guru to the gloomy. Leftist radicals. Rightist nuts. All sorts of scary, violent types will come out of the woodwork, Kunstler wrote in the last days of 2009. Some of the signs at Tea Party rallies had nasty things written on them, and the crowds at Justin Bieber concerts got, like, totally out of control, but its still safe to say that Kunstlers dire vision didnt pan out. No matter, though. Kunstlers got plenty more dire visions to share and you can be sure his legions of fans will find them just as frightening as all the other things he predicted that did not happen. Castro will die, Newsweek forecast at the end of 2009. And Cubas relations with the US will improve. Wrong and wrong. And Fidel says, Up yours. In the dismal waning days of 2008, Russian academic and dean of Moscows foreign service school Igor Panarin got an enormous amount of media attention - including a large write-up in The Wall Street Journal - for predicting the demise of the US in 2010. Mass immigration, economic decline and moral degradation would trigger a civil war and the collapse of the American dollar by the autumn of 2009, Panarin said. By mid-2010, the US would break into six pieces. And Alaska would revert to Russian control. It did not happen. Sarah Palin still has to look way over yonder to see Russia. In 1996, a group of leading foreign-policy experts convened by the National Intelligence Council in Washington DC expected that by 2010 the world would be delighted to see the transformation of North Korea and resulting elimination of military tensions on the peninsula. Sadly, North Korea was not so much transformed as it was preserved in amber. And since North Korea sank a South Korean warship this year - and more recently unleashed an artillery barrage on a South Korean island - and since South Korea threatened massive retaliation if theres another attack, and the world held its breath as South Korea conducted live-fire training exercises, we can say that military tensions have not been eliminated on the peninsula. Korea is something of a graveyard of expert predictions. Consider a survey conducted by Atlantic Monthly at the end of 2007, when relations between North and South Korea were improving modestly. How likely is it that North and South Korea will continue to reconcile and normalise relations over the next five years? the magazine asked 39 foreign policy giants like Warren Christopher and Joseph Nye. Highly likely, said 41pc. Somewhat likely, said another 54pc. A mere 5pc were pessimistic. Thats two respondents. And one of them was a German octopus. As always, those of us who trade in failed predictions made a killing on the stock market in 2010. There was the January barometer, which supposedly forecast a year of terrible losses in 2010. Didnt happen. Then in August there was a flood of stories about the Hindenburg Omen, which indicated unspeakable bloodshed to come. Ditto. It was the same for countless calls by those gloomy analysts known as perma-bears. The US dollar will crash. So will stock markets. Zimbabwe-style hyperinflation will ravage economies. Weve heard this for the past several years from Peter Schiff and many others. Still waiting. Special mention should be made of Robert Prechter, the stock analyst who had a massive following as a successful bull in the 1980s. In 2010, Prechter said the Dow would crash to 1,000 this year or in the near future. The media loved it. Prechters call was reported all over the world. Which was nice for Prechter. Even better, very few reporters bothered to mention that Prechter has been making pretty much the same prediction since 1987. Heads, I win. Tails, you forget we had a bet. There really is no way to lose the expert prediction game. -National Post