~ Posted by Robert Butler, November 22nd 2012

One of the predictions that Economist writers very nearly got right in The World in 2012 was that Andy Murray would win Wimbledon. As it was, he didn't win Wimbledon, but he did win an Olympic gold at Wimbledon (there were seven reasons for this) as well as the US Open.  

Of course last year Economist writers got other things right: from France losing its triple-A credit rating and the Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi being replaced by a technocrat (Mario Monti) to Boris Johnson winning re-election as Mayor of London. But there were misses too. The editor of The World in 2013, Daniel Franklin, says: "As ever, we failed at big events that came out of the blue. We did not foresee the LIBOR scandal, for example, or the Bo Xilai affair in China or Hurricane Sandy."

How is 2013 shaping up? The World in 2013, which is published today, contains some safe bets. We can be fairly sure that John le Carré's new novel "A Delicate Truth" will be published in May, that Croatia will join the European Union in July, and that the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy will be marked in November. We can also be reasonably confident in learning that in 2013 Lagos will overtake Cairo as Africa's largest city, that the internet will become a "mostly mobile medium", and that the world's largest ships (with 18,000 containers) will take to the water.

We can't be so certain about what will take place on February 15th when an asteroid the size of an Olympic pool passes close to the Earth. Nor can we be sure what will happen in Japan when elections move the country sharply to the right ("likely to be as enticing," the article predicts, "as last week's sushi"); or what impact the former cricketer Imran Khan will have on the Pakistan elections ("he has made the polls more uncertain"); or how far violence in Syria will have to increase before Assad goes ("a miserable situation will get worse before it gets better").  

Other predictions in The World in 2013 are more decisive. The article on Iran says: "Israel will not strike Iran in 2013". One of the leaders says: "2013 will be one of the worst years ever for Christianity in the Middle East". And, in the science and technology section, an article on "alternative energy" says it will no longer be considered an alternative. "'Renewable power' will start to be seen as normal."

But there's one prediction that The World in 2013 can make with absolute confidence: next year will be a more anxious time for triskaidekaphobics—people who have a fear of 13.

Robert Butler is online editor of
Intelligent Life