As long as the human mind discovered that it existed, the future has been the place of dreams: flying cars, interstellar travel, and a no more bald people.
Some people think they have the future figured out. They do not. There are three primary reasons predictions fail: miscalculated trends, proclaimed impossibilities, and altered social habits.
Often times we think we can see where things are going. Unfortunately, when predicting the future more than a year in advance, it's like driving in the fog . . . at night . . with a blind fold. And you're blind.
"With over fifteen types of foreign cars already on sale here, the Japanese auto industry isn't likely to carve out a big share of the market for itself." -Business Week, 1968
"Remote shopping, while entirely feasible, will flop - because women like to get out of the house, like to handle merchandise, like to be able to change their minds." -TIME, 1968
"The Radio has no future." -Lord Kelvin, 1897
"Nuclear vacuum cleaners will be a reality in ten years." -Alex Lewyt, 1955
Each of these statements were made by seemingly intelligent individuals. Yet things like Honda Civics, Amazon.com (and the fact that men do in fact shop nowdays), Howard Stern, and the lack of a plutonium cartridge on my Hoover prove these to be complete failures in prediction.
This thing will never catch on.
Predicting that something will not happen is still a prediction. In this case, being smarter and more knowledgeable actually works against you. At the time these predictions where made, science didn't have a way to explain how these things would happen. Also included in this category are predictions that we've almost figured stuff out and can't learn more about a subject.
"A rocket will never be able to leave the Earth's atmosphere." -New York Times, 1936
"There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable." - Albert Einstein
"I must confess that my imagination refuses to see any sort of submarine doing anything but suffocating its crew and floundering at sea." -H.G. Wells
"We are probably nearing the limit of all we can know about astronomy." -Simon Newcomb, 1888
Each of these folks probably had very good reason at the time to proclaim these feats as impossible. Usually, an unimaginable discovery or advancement expands what's scientifically possible, and makes smart people look like dumb-asses.
But what the hell is it pushing against!!
Altered Social Habits
Unless they purposefully ponder the past or future, most people assume that the way society is now is the way it always was and the way it always will be. Ask a 6th grader what kids did after school before video games were invented, and they will stare at you blankly while coming to grips with the notion that kids once didn't have video games. What the hell did they do?! Likewise, whenever something new, invention or idea, comes along that doesn't quite fit in the current social life, it is disregarded as something society would never accept.
"The cinema is little more than a fad. It's canned drama. What audiences really want to see is flesh and blood on the stage." -Charlie Chaplin, 1916
"The problem with television is that the people must sit and keep their eyes glued on a screen; the average American family hasn't time for it." -The New York Times, 1939
"If anything remains more or less unchanged, it will be the role of women." -David Riesman, 1967
To predict the future, you have to take into account that what the current generation finds new and scary, the next generation will grow up thinking it was always around, and will find it hard to imagine it not being there. So be careful before you prognosticate the coming failure of the 3DTV or that a black man can't be elected president anytime in the near future.
Far-fetched, but not impossible!
There are ways to insure all your predictions are spot-on. Continuing short-term trends, vague generalities, and statistical certainties will make you magical.
Continuing short-term trends
These are considered "gimme" predictions because everyone agrees it will happen, and they are easily identified by containing the word "continue" in some form. Stay away from making too many of them. Your followers will see right through you.
"Computers will continue to sell next year."
"The MIddle East will continue to be in unrest."
"TV prices will continue to fall."
You are probably familiar with this method, as it is used today by horoscopes and fortune cookies, but its origins lie with Nostradamus. Basically, the idea is to state something that could be taken in so many different ways, that it could be applied to many things that eventually will occur. Also, they give no time-frame. That way, the prediction can never be shown to be wrong, just still waiting it happen. It's a great way to build suspense.
"A king will fall from the thrown when the eagle flies."
"You will encounter a stranger with important information."
"The big-chin will reclaim the night from the pale-one."
In this world there are some things you can be sure of. Using the power of statistics you can make predictions that are 98% sure to come true (+-5%). In this case, just take an event that happens every so often, and say it will happen after an alloted period of time. The longer the time period, the better chance it has of occurring. However, the shorter the time period, the more impressive the prediction.
"A major natural disaster will occur in the next 5 years."
"By the end of the century, a major disease will be cured."
"By sunset tomorrow, you will inhale air which was blown out of someone else's anus."