Monday, August 10, 2009

Is predicting the future easy?

Last night I watched a film called Knowing, starring Nicolas Cage. It's about him getting hold of a list of predictions of all the natural and man made disasters that are going to happen. It starts off as an OK film but half way through it turns out he has to save the world from a huge solar flair. Anyway, don't watch it as it's rubbish.

But it got me thinking about predicting the future, which is timely as our Think Fresh 09 event features 6 futurists and future shapers, from companies such as Microsoft, Google and MCN.

Is predicting the future getting harder or easier? As the pace of technological change quickens, you'd have to think it gets harder to see what will happen. But on the other hand, predicting the future seems to be almost single-mindedly about technology these days which is probably easier to predict than if we were trying to predict turns in international politics. And we have more info and modeling at our fingertips to predict than ever before.

Imagine being alive in 1065 AD and trying to predict the would not have anywhere near enough information, and the pace of technological change would be so slow as to be almost invisible (or at least that's the way we'd see it if we were transported back, but I'm sure there people back then lamenting the introduction of bows and arrows and the decline of jousting as a key skill). The future would be an unknowable blend of religion, politics and intrigue, and the information and power would be in the hands of just a few people. At this time change would have come in quick bursts and then long pauses, e.g. William the Conquerer's invasion in 1066 would probably have been followed by a long period of stability in every day life.

So anyway, change these days is more pervasive and affects all of us more equally, it is brought about by more people, it is probably more knowable as it's more democratic and we certainly have much much more information to base our predictions on.

That's why I reckon predicing the future just might be a bit easier every year!

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