8 wild predictions for 2014

20 Dec

Starring: the Pope, Dennis Rodman, Kim Jong Un, the billionaire guru of Tesla and a lone Japanese terrorist. We also take a look back at how the predictions we made a year ago have fared.

By Diana Szoke, Peter Simon Vargha and Istvan Zsoldos

“This is the year-end, and this is the season for predictions, often silly and speculative ones. Here we present “black swan” type speculations for 2013 (and a bit beyond) that may not be very likely, but would be momentous if happened, and their possibility is generally overlooked.”

We wrote this almost exactly a year ago. So let’s continue the tradition.

Here is our list of wild predictions, followed by an evaluation of the predictions from a year ago. In fact, some of the events have since become much more likely!

And of course you can also vote. Choose which of the 8 predictions you consider the most likely!



Pope ends celibacy and allows female priests. He tweets: “Jesus probably had a wife. Why shouldn’t we?” The Catholic Church splits, but church attendance and the number of those seeking to become priests soars.


The Middle East burns. The Syrian civil war spreads first to Lebanon, then ignites sectarian tensions in Iraq, triggering a massive cut in Middle Eastern oil production. Iran steps in to ease the supply disruption, and is offered further sanctions relief in exchange. Oil prices nevertheless soar to $170/barrel. President Obama announces a plan to switch cars to natural gas.


Nuclear winter. France bans nuclear following an accident when a complete meltdown is averted only at the last minute. Electricity prices explode in Europe. National regulators isolate several electricity markets, gas plants are built at a rapid pace. Gazprom says oil-indexed gas prices may be too low for Europe.


Koreas reunited. Dennis Rodman turns out to be a CIA agent after all when he tries to assassinate North Korean president Kim Jong Un, which leaves the leader incapacitated. A reformist general emerges from the infighting, frees political prisoners and opens the border with South Korea. Amid chaotic scenes, 5 million northerners try to cross the border. Changes lead to a rapid reunification. Crime rates jump and the won, the South Korean currency, collapses.


End of the grid. Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk announces that a combination of ultra-cheap solar cells and batteries will be provided by his new company, TeslaCell, to households. He predicts that this will make the electric grid “largely obsolete” by 2020.


Communication breakdown. A lone Japanese terrorist crosses into China’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) and is quickly shot down. This leads to a massive global cyber war. Tokyo’s blackout lasts for weeks, the internet is shut down; Chinese products are boycotted all over the world, resulting in a global recession.


Who wants to live forever? A generic cure for cancer is discovered, with the unexpected side effect of prolonging healthy life spans to several hundred years. French state employees start a preventive strike against lifting the pension age above 60 years. Several large US companies file lawsuits to re-write pension contracts.


Adriatic unconventional bonanza. After a large offshore find by INA, the Croatian government revokes the exploration licenses and creates an alternative to INA called ANI. The government also wants to repurchase MOL’s stake in INA with the revenues, but negotiations about the appropriate price stall. Croatia says it will embark on a refinery building program “like the Saudis”, “so that we can refine all of our future oil production, maybe more”.


Ukraine instead of Russia, Klitschko instead of Kasparov. Otherwise spot on…

Steak for breakfast, Kasparov as Russia’s president, a Persian spring – these were among the black swan predictions we made a year ago. Of course not all of them were spot on, but a couple of the scenarios, which we had originally thought were quite wild, have since become much more likely. We have also covered them extensively on the blog.

“Persian Spring” in Iran: “The emergence of a secular Iranian leadership results in a diplomatic opening, sanctions are dropped, and oil production quickly reaches pre-embargo levels.” – went our black swan prediction. Our readers also voted this one the most likely event.

Since then quite a lot has changed in Iran. We wrote about the easing tensions (The Great End-Game with Iran: Historical reflexes versus fundamentals) and their potential economic effects (The consequences of a Persian Spring).

“Unconventionals lead to OPEC breakup” this was also a black swan event on our list. Since then this has become much more likely: in April we had a post on The demise of the Central Banker for oil…, which would also mean lower prices: The end of ever increasing oil prices.

But not all our predictions were that accurate. We had thought the Russian regime could end up in turmoil, and instead now the Ukrainian one is in trouble. Thus, it will probably be Klitschko leading the opposition, and not Kasparov…

And of course Hungary has not found enormous unconventional oil reserves. But it was still quite lucky.

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