Monday, August 31, 2009

Maybe Psychics Get Rich After All

One of the most common criticisms of alleged psychic powers is that if you really can see the future you should be rich. While the argument includes some inaccurate assumptions about how precognition really works, the central point is still somewhat valid - anyone who can perceive the future in enough detail should be able to use that ability to make money. Even beyond obvious things like lottery numbers, a genuine precognitive should be able to read the future behavior of markets and economies and act accordingly. If insider traders can make millions based on having a pretty good idea of what a stock is going to do a day in advance, just think of how well an effective precognitive could do.

The Washington Post has an article up today about Shari Arison, one of the richest women in the Middle East. What makes Arison more interesting than your run-of-the-mill oligarch is that she does in fact claim to have the power to see the future.

But the biggest jolt comes from the woman in the executive chair: Arison -- billionaire ($2.7 by Forbes's most recent estimate), perhaps the richest woman in the Middle East, a major force in Israeli philanthropy -- claims that she can see the future.

This is much bigger than a parlor trick. In her new book published this summer in Israel, the 51-year-old Miami native says she felt the Indonesian tsunami sweeping over the land two months before it happened and sensed Hurricane Katrina pummeling New Orleans. In an interview, Arison says she also "saw the writing on the wall" before the global economic crash.

Such psychic powers would certainly be useful to any high-rolling business executive. In fact, if you really had the ability to look into the future far enough to see the results of any business deal it seems unlikely that you would ever fail. Much of Arison's wealth was inherited so it's hard to see how her alleged powers could have influenced her overall station in life, but it is true that she has done very well for herself, substantially better than many of her economic peers.

Still, one wonders how much of this is really rationalization after the fact. We don't have any evidence that would allow us to determine how effective Arison's predictions are since she has never publicized them. It certainly would have been nice of her to notify somebody about the Indonesian tsunami or Hurricane Katrina or the recent economic crisis.

Reading about Arison's extrasensory perception makes you ache for a heads-up, maybe a blog entry or a tweet or a phone call to Brownie or Greenspan or somebody who might have helped.

The honest truth, though, is that without a solid track record she probably wouldn't have been believed anyway. Psychics, even rich ones, are not taken seriously by the powers that be in our society, and it's understandable that Arison hasn't come forward with her claims before now. However, according to her recent book this reticence regarding announcing her predictions may be changing soon. If she indeed starts making her predictions public it will become possible to get some idea of whether or not her powers really work or if she is simply a good guesser.

Arison explains that she has finally dropped the fear that has held her back from doing more about what she has perceived. Armed with the insight gained through work with Florida-based psychiatrist Brian Weiss, a proponent of regression therapy and the exploration of (take your pick) deep memories or past lives, she says she is ready to go public with her visions and bring together her spiritual and business goals.

As a magical researcher I'll be on the lookout for any of Arison's predictions that are announced in the media ahead of time and are testable. If they turn out to be accurate, maybe the skeptics are right and psychics really do wind up rich - at least if they have enough working capital to start with.

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