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Coming to you from another dimension, the intriguing world of psychic and paranormal apps

Coming to you from another dimension, the intriguing world of psychic and paranormal apps

Paranormally connected artificial intelligence is here, and it’s coming for your favourite medium’s livelihood.

It’s one of the oldest arguments: is divination in the form of fortune tellers, psychics, tarot cards, horoscopes, numerology and other seemingly paranormal techniques one big scam or is there something to it?

“For many people, belief in the paranormal derives from personal experience of face-to-face interviews with astrologers, palm readers, aura and Tarot readers, and spirit mediums. These encounters typically involve cold reading, a process in which a reader makes calculated guesses about a client’s background and problems and, depending on the reaction, elaborates a reading which seems to the client so uniquely appropriate that it carries with it the illusion of having been produced by paranormal means. The cold reading process is shown to depend initially on the Barnum effect, the tendency for people to embrace generalised personality descriptions as idiosyncratically their own,” reads one research paper published by the US’s National Library of Medicine, titled The cold reading technique.

The researchers elaborate: “Future research should investigate the degree to which cold readers may have convinced themselves that they actually possess psychic or paranormal abilities.”

In the US, a 2001 Gallup poll found that 54% of Americans believe in “psychic or spiritual healing or the power of the human mind to heal the body”. A more recent 2018 study of “American Fears” by Chapman University, found that 58% believe that places can be haunted by spirits, 41% believe aliens have visited earth, and 17% believe that psychics can foresee the future.

While Maverick Life hasn’t found an equivalent study for South Africa, the majority of the country does subscribe to beliefs that fall outside of the scientifically explicable. For example, according to a 2001 census, 80% of the South African population identifies as Christian, which assumes a belief in an omnipotent omniscient deity that operates outside the laws of science. Only 15% of the South African population does not subscribe to some sort of religious belief. When it comes to how widespread belief in the supernatural is in South Africa, perhaps it is also telling that one can buy “Tokoloshe salts” to chase away evil spirits from retailers such as pharmacy, health, home and beauty chain, Clicks.

Even as scientific research has not found any evidence that psychic and paranormal phenomena exists, a large number of people believe in their existence, and incorporate some kind of supernatural belief into their world view. And while the aforementioned research paper states that “belief in the paranormal derives from personal experience of face-to-face interviews with astrologers, palm readers, aura and Tarot readers, and spirit mediums,” that is changing as app developers increasingly offer divination apps that claim to connect users with the paranormal, without the need for a face-to-face meeting.

In a year such as 2020, defined by so much uncertainty, we tested out a few for an artificial intelligence-driven peek into possible futures:

Faladdin Tarot and Horoscope

“If you haven’t heard about it before, we have an AI-based personalised horoscope and Tarot app. And as you’d expect, AI is the key ingredient in making it extremely accurate and personalised… About eight years ago, we started our app with real psychics, and as time went by, our hundreds of psychics couldn’t manage to service our thousands of users. So we decided to give artificial intelligence a try. We matched the age, gender, and location data with our previous readings, and in the end, we managed to build a code that gives our users what fits them the most: an extremely personalised reading.” So claim the developers of Faladdin, a horoscope and tarot app with an estimated 10 million + downloads on Google’s app store.

Faladdin screenshot from Apple App Store

Features: Once you have submitted your birthday, birth time, as well as city of birth, the app creates your birth chart and offers an astrology reading, with a few predictions about changes to your life over the next couple of months, as well as daily horoscopes. The app also offers a “clairvoyant” reading by asking users to place a finger on the phone screen in order for the app to connect with them.

Cost: Free with in-app purchases and premium option

The above finger-based readings take a few minutes in the free version of the app, and they require extra credits that can be bought for R22.99 per credit, or earned by watching ads on the app. Alternatively, users can subscribe for R519.99 a month or R2,449.99 annually for a 61% discount.

Rating out of 5: 4.6 of Google Play, 4.7 on Apple app store

***

Tibetan Daily Horoscope & Lunar Calendar Norbu

According to the website, the Norbu app is based on the Tibetan horoscope, “compiled and adapted to the modern world on the basis of ancient knowledge and teachings of scientists, mathematicians and astrologers from Shang Shung and Tibet”.

Tibetan calendar app screenshot from Apple App Store

Features: The app will give you daily predictions based on the cycles of the moon. Pick a day and it will predict the “circumstances” for that day, and what kind of “lunar day” it will be, as well as whether that day will be good for travel. The app will also predict what consequences might follow a haircut on that day. For example, haircuts on some days might be predicted to lead to “Good wealth” and on other days they might result in “anguish and fear, diseases of the mouth and throat”. Phew! Talk about a bad hair day.

Cost: Free, with premium option for some features

If you’re looking to pose more serious enquiries, specifically to do with health and business decisions, you’ll have to pay an annual subscription of R169.99 or a monthly one for R85.99, or simply pay a once-off amount of R424.99 for lifetime access.

Rating out of 5: 4.1 on Google Play, 3.8 on Apple’s app store

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Way FengShui Almanac app

This app was created by the Singapore-based Way FengShui Group, which was founded in 1984. The group’s services include helping clients choose the most “auspicious dates” for events such as weddings, moving house, renovations, surgery and childbirths. They also help parents find the most “auspicious names” for children. $168 gets you five sets of recommended Chinese names and 10 alternative characters, for $288 and they’ll throw in a 30-minute consultation with a Master, as well as propose the best bed position for your baby, the best colours for their room, and suggestions for best parenting style. If you’re planning on a Caesarean birth, the price goes up to $688.

Way FengShui Almanac app screenshot from Apple App Store

Features: The group’s app goes beyond the Feng Shui you might have read about in the Noughties: “Arguably one of the most comprehensive applications for Chinese oracles available in English, Way FengShui offers you a personalised auspicious calendar, i-ching hexagram divination, telephone number analysis, coin divination and more elaborate tools like the luo pan or feng-shui compass… The divination system points out bigger pictures like the route to riches and whether working or marrying with a particular individual will bring good luck or the opposite,” reports the Thailand Tatler.

The app’s wide variety of divination techniques also include Bone weight astrology, the Emperor’s poem astrology, and correct Feng Shui directions for the God of Wealth.

Cost: Free for basic use, with a premium option

For many of the divination options, users get a daily free credit, however, if you’re looking to use a specific divination technique more than once a day you can pay the once off price of R164.99.

Rating out of 5: 4.3 on Google Play, 4.3 on Apple’s app store

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The Pattern

According to the developers, “The Pattern is the most accurate and in-depth personality app, helping you to better understand yourself and others, enabling connections to be formed on a much deeper level. As featured in TechCrunch, The New Yorker, Refinery29, Vogue, Vice, Men’s Health and more.”

The Pattern app screenshot from Apple App Store

Features: The idea behind the pattern is that it is based on 40 years of astrology experience. Just by filling the date, time and location of birth, the pattern will create an in-depth analysis of your personality traits. While this might sound a bit like what astrologers call a birth chart, The Pattern does not emphasise astrological concepts like your rising or your moon, and it works with less information and no face-to-face consultation.

It’s enlightened algorithm will also give you “an informative breakdown of emotional cycles you may be experiencing at any point in time – past, present and future,” and compare your “timing” to “world timing”, highlighting “various cycles that may be affecting all of us collectively. Some people will feel these cycles more personally than others”. The app also breaks down your personal pattern into the following categories: instincts, growth, communication, at work and in the world, relationship experiences, ideal partner traits, destiny. The Pattern will also send you daily push notifications, updating you on astrological movements that may be affecting your day.

In case you’re concerned about your astrologer’s political leanings before jumping into a divination relationship, you’ll be happy to know that The Pattern’s website also has an entire page dedicated to their support for Black Lives Matter. Stay woke.

Cost: Free

Rating out of 5: 4.3 on Google Play, 4.4 on Apple’s app store

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Numerology – Rediscover Your Life Purpose

As the name of the app indicates, it is based on numerology, which in turn is “based on an assumption that numbers and information derived from your date of birth will help you get a better understanding of yourself, your talents, virtues and your shortcomings,” according to the app’s developers.

Numerology app screenshot from Google Play Store

Features: Once you submit your birth name and your birthday, the app spits out several digits: your life path number which “represents the path you’ll take in this life”, your expression number which “describes your natural talents, skills and potential”, your soul urge which describes your “inner needs and urges”, as well as your attitude, personality and maturity numbers.

For each of these categories, the app offers a detailed personality analysis. It is less predictive than some of the apps above, although it does offer a generalised look at the likely path one might follow based on their number. Users can also load more than one profile. For example, if you and your partner add both your profiles into one device, the app can compare your compatibility, as well as highlight potential relationship pitfalls based on numerology.

The app will also send you daily push notifications, with predictions for the day ahead, daily affirmations, as well as lucky colours you should wear for the day.

Cost: Free with in-app ads.

The ads can be removed for a one-time fee of R69.99. You can also select to buy coffee for R41.99 or help the team “create more quality content” by buying a book for R144.99. But please do note as per a message on the app: “These purchases are to help us. You won’t get a coffee or a book.”

Rating out of 5: 4.7 on Google Play. (not available on Apple app store)

Have fun, let the algorithms reveal your destiny, and let us know below in the comments which of these were most accurate for you, if any. DM/ ML

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