What began as a string of coincidences has since presented an undeniable pattern. Discussions surrounding the statistical phenomenon were reignited this past week when a 2007 punchline about the US government borrowing some of Tom Hanks’ credibility after the administration ran out of its own was actually birthed into reality. So how is it possible for an animated series like The Simpsons to keep making strangely accurate predictions about the future years – sometimes over a decade – before they occur?
The explanation is actually fairly straightforward and the furthest thing from sinister (I can already hear the tinfoil hat brigade crying “predictive programming“). Essentially, the brains behind The Simpsons – and Futurama, given the cross-pollination of comedic talent – are renowned for being the most over-educated and over-qualified television writers going around. As of 2014, the show has hired dozens of scribes who’ve studied at the prestigious Harvard University:
- Al Jean
- Dan McGrath
- John Collier
- Greg Daniels
- Patric Verrone
- Bill Canterbury
- David X. Cohen / David S. Cohen
- Jon Vitti
- Richard Appel
- Bill Oakley
- David Sacks
- Ken Keeler
- Steve Tompkins
- Jeff Westbrook
- Conan O’Brien (yes… that Conan O’Brien)
- George Meyer
- Max Pross
- Steve Young
- Dan Greaney
- Jeff Martin
- Mike Reiss
- Tom Gammill
- Nell Scovell
- Daniel Chun
- Matt Warburton
- J. Stewart Burns
Many of the names listed above did a little more than just attend too – a good deal of them actually finished with honours.
Show veteran Al Jean graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. J. Stewart Burns graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, submitting a senior thesis titled “The Structure of Group Algebra”, before receiving his master’s from UC Berkeley. Futurama co-developer David X. Cohen graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in physics before also receiving a master’s degree in computer science from UC Berkeley.
Jeff Westbrook majored in physics and history of science, eventually earning a PhD in computer science from Princeton University, where he submitted a doctoral thesis titled “Algorithms & Data Structures for Dynamic Graph Algorithms; later serving as an Associate Professor for Yale University’s Department of Computer Science.
Ken Keeler graduated summa cum laude in applied mathematics, only to double down with a PhD in the same field after publishing his doctoral thesis titled “Map Representations & Optimal Encoding For Image Segmentation” (also see: the Futurama theorem). Then there’s Matt Warburton, who completed his bachelor’s in cognitive neuroscience at the crimson establishment of higher learning.
Now keep in mind: these Lisa Simpson-tier overachievers are just the ones who attended Harvard. Bill Odenkirk, for example, earned a PhD in inorganic chemistry from the University of Chicago (non-Ivy League but impressive nonetheless). Hell, even longtime music composer Alf Clausen was originally studying Mechanical Engineering with a minor in math at North Dakota State University before surrendering to the arts.
With an intellectual pedigree of this calibre, it’s almost impossible not to predict the future. What other outcome could you honestly expect from rounding up some of America’s best + brightest, and throwing them into a single room to
keep their finger on the pulse scrutinize the current landscape for satirical purposes? Given sufficient time – and considering the recurring motifs in this rather circular modern culture of ours, i.e. Donald Trump threatening to run for US president, Richard Branson threatening to breach space – they’re bound to anticipate the curve.
Check out some of the greatest predictions from The Simpsons below.
The Simpsons Predictions: Every Major Moment So Far
(S09E03 ‘Lisa’s Sax’ – October 19th, 1997)
When it actually happened: December 2013
(S09E01 ‘The City of New York vs Homer Simpsons’ – September 21st, 1997)
When it actually happened: September 11th, 2001
The Siegfried & Roy Tiger Attack
(S05E10 ‘$pringfield (Or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying & Love Legalising Gambling)’ – December 16th, 1993)
When it actually happened: October 3rd, 2003
Game of Thrones Finale
(S29E01 ‘The Serfsons’ – October 1st, 2017)
When it actually happened: May 19th, 2019
Disney Buying Fox
(S10E05 ‘When You Dish Upon A Star’ – November 8th, 1998)
When it actually happened: November 6th, 2017
Lady Gaga’s Superbowl LI Halftime Show
(S23E22 ‘Lisa Goes Gaga’ – May 20th, 2012)
When it actually happened: February 5th, 2017
The Higgs-Boson Particle Discovery
(S10E02 ‘The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace’ – September 20th, 1998)
When it actually happened: July 4th, 2012
Professor Bengt R. Holmstrom Winning The 2016 Nobel Prize In Economics
(S22E01 ‘Elementary School Musical’ – September 26th, 2010)
When it actually happened: October 10th, 2016
NSA Mass Surveillance Revealed (PRISM)
(The Simpsons Movie – July 26th, 2007)
When it actually happened: June 2013
Faulty Voter Machines
(S20E04 ‘Treehouse of Horror XIX’ – November 2nd, 2008)
When it actually happened: November 6th, 2012
Donald Trump’s Presidency & Kamala Harris
(S11E17 ‘Bart To The Future’ – March 19th, 2000)
When it actually happened: 2016-2021
Richard Branson’s Space Trip
(S25E15 ‘The War of Art’ – March 23rd, 2014)
When it actually happened: July 11th, 2021
(S04E21 ‘Marge in Chains’ – May 6th, 1993)
When it actually happened: December 2019
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