Up through the 1960s, meteorologists forecast the weather by measuring the present state of the atmosphere and extrapolating forward. They’d throw some data into a computer simulation — wind direction, barometric pressure, moisture in the air, temperature — and out would come a prediction of the weather a week or two hence. Most often, it was wrong. As an MIT researcher named Edward Lorenz discovered, the tiniest errors in measuring the atmosphere soon doubled in magnitude, and doubled again, turning the best predictive modeling into a demonstration of chaos. The weather doesn’t follow straight lines. Neither does business. Or the economy. Or technological innovation. All of which would suggest that trying to predict what’s going to happen across a span of industries in 2014 is a fool’s errand. We thought we’d try anyway. For our first foray into prophecy, however, we also tried to think nonlinearly — dancing past the obvious (when we could) and asking our expert sources to do the same. What follows is a look into the hive mind of Fortune as we ponder the coming year. For each prediction, we’ve given our best guess as to the probability, in percentage terms, that it will come true by Dec. 31. The only thing we’re quite sure of? It’s more fun than predicting the weather.
By Ryan Bradley, Geoff Colvin, Catherine Dunn, Leigh Gallagher, Stephen Gandel, Miguel Helft, Jessi Hempel, Marty Jones, Adam Lashinsky, JP Mangalindan, Megan McCarthy, Tory Newmyer, Jennifer Reingold, Daniel Roberts, Alex Taylor, Shawn Tully, and Jen Wieczner