Let’s be honest here: anybody who claims to see the future is probably a scam artist. This is an unpredictable world, and that’s what makes it so exciting. But even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while. In this feature, we’ll present 10 predictions made by psychics, gamblers and other future-thinkers that actually became reality, despite unbelievable odds. Are you ready?
Apple Predicted the iPhone in 1987
Back in the late '80s, computers were big, ungainly boxes that sat on your desk. But Apple, fresh off of the departure of Steve Jobs, believed they could be something more. In 1987, they released a promotional video called “Knowledge Navigator” that outlined their predictions for the future of computing. The device shown was a flat, touch-screen device that connected wirelessly to a worldwide information network and also served as a telephone. Oh, and it also had a talking digital assistant that responded to voice commands. The kicker? The video takes place in September of 2011, the very same month that the iPhone 4S, featuring talking digital assistant Siri, came out. Now that’s a detailed prediction.
Tana Hoy Predicted the Oklahoma City Bombing 90 Minutes Before It Happened
Most so-called psychics work by throwing out a lot of vague predictions and waiting for one or two of them to come true. The ones that don’t they explain away, but it’s the hits that give them credibility. Tana Hoy is a slick mentalist who offers all kinds of “readings” for cash, but on the morning of April 19, 1995, he plugged into something serious. During an interview with radio station WQSM in Fayetteville, N.C., Hoy stated that there would be a terrorist attack on American soil that year, that the target would be a federal building, and that it would be worse than the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. 90 minutes later, Timothy McVeigh detonated his bomb at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City, killing 168 people.
Magazine Writer Predicted High-Speed Trains in 1900
John Elfreth Watkins, a writer for Ladies' Home Journal magazine, wrote an article in the December 1900 issue called “What May Happen in the Next Hundred Years.” In it, he made a number of remarkably prescient predictions about the 21st century. Readers at the time probably thought he was completely insane -- indeed, his prediction that the English language would shed the letters C, X and Q was a little kooky -- but some of his ideas came totally true. The most telling was his prediction that trains in the year 2000 would reach speeds of 150 mph. The Amtrak Acela Express between Boston and Washington D.C. opened that very year. Its top speed? 150 miles per hour.
George Orwell Predicted Security Cameras in 1949
We might have been better off without this prediction coming true. George Orwell’s dystopian science-fiction novel "1984" features a populace kept under constant surveillance by closed-circuit security cameras that transmit footage back to Big Brother. In 1949, television technology was still a novelty, as network programming hadn’t begun in the United States until the year before. And cameras were massive, cumbersome things hardly suitable for use outside. Yet, here we are in 2012 with cameras everywhere -- even on our phones -- and unmanned drones using all this footage to find and kill dissidents.
Morgan Robertson Predicted the Sinking of the Titanic in 1898
Here’s another prediction that happened in the pages of literature and yet is too close to ignore. Morgan Robertson was a prolific author of short stories in the latter half of the 19th century. Most of his work is pretty mediocre, but he is remembered for one novella: "Futility, or the Wreck of the Titan." See if this sounds familiar: the largest triple-screw propeller ship ever made hits an iceberg in the North Atlantic and sinks bow-first, killing more than half of its 2,500 passengers and crew. Yep, it’s basically exactly what happened to the RMS Titanic 14 years later. How bizarre.
"The Simpsons" Predicted Soy-Based Snacks in 1995
In the 21st century, we all take for granted the amazing nutritional properties of soybeans and soy protein, incorporating them into a wide variety of foods. But who could have known that in 1995? The writers of "The Simpsons," that’s who. The sixth-season episode “Lisa’s Wedding” was a flash-forward to the far-off year 2010, and it painted a surprisingly accurate vision of the future, with satellite dishes on every home, motion-controlled video games and soy snacks in vending machines that you can use your credit card in.
Ray Bradbury Predicted Personal Audio in 1953
It’s kind of unfortunate that many of the science-fiction predictions on this list come from horrible dystopian futures. Where are our flying cars and hot alien babes? Ray Bradbury’s landmark novel "Fahrenheit 451" is about a future world where books are outlawed and burned on sight. We’re already moving into a post-literate world of Twitter and sexting, but Bradbury’s biggest insight came in the way people would consume audio. Characters in the book all wear “seashells,” tiny earbuds that transmit radio directly into their heads. Sounds a lot like the world of today, where everybody’s plugged into their iPods 24/7.
A Science Book Predicted Cellphones in 1947
This fascinating discovery comes courtesy of "The Science Year Book" of 1947, a compendium of articles from the era’s science magazines. The year saw us coming out of World War II, a period of heady scientific advances. Ultra-short-wave radio, also known as “microwaves,” had just entered the public consciousness, with astronomers using them to measure distances between Earth and the moon. So it was quite unusual that one writer predicted that they would be used for telephone calls, radio, TV signals and more. But that’s exactly what the book predicts, painting a scarily accurate picture of our wireless, information-clogged world.
A Welshman Predicted Multiple Pop-Culture Events in 1989
This one is notable just because of the profit that the daring futurist made. In 1989, a Welshman walked into his local betting parlor and asked for odds on a number of possible happenings, including singer Cliff Richard being knighted, the band U2 still being together, and TV shows "EastEnders" and "Neighbours" both still being on the air in the year 2000. The cumulative odds for all four of those happening were 6,479 to 1. He put down 30 pounds, got his receipt and strolled out. Of course, Y2K rolled along and all four of his predictions came true, netting him a cool 194,400 pounds for his trouble. I bet the bookmaker regretted taking that one.
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Tom Selleck Predicted GPS in 1993
Let’s end with another pretty amazing technology prediction. In 1993, AT&T hired Tom Selleck to provide voiceover for three commercials called “You Will” that looked ahead to what you might do with your telephone -- not your cellphone, just your regular telephone -- in the distant future. Sure, some of the predictions were a little ridiculous -- you still can’t use your phone to unlock doors in your house -- but most of the time, they was right on the nose. The best prediction was that you’d be able to get maps on your phone from anywhere in the world, the technology we now know as GPS. Only one issue: the GPS satellite network didn’t go operational until 1994, and phones wouldn’t have it for decades. Well played, Magnum.