It’s January and we’ve all just survived the twin bodyblows of year-end predictions and, well, CES, where companies large and small attempt to incept a thousand possible futures as a kind of confidence trick with headphone mics and breathless press releases. In both situations, there are more willing buyers than we’d like to admit.
I say confidence tricks because none of the propagators have a real possibility of seriously influencing
a deep future (as opposed to a short-term mindshare win) without the willing participation of an audience. The majority of those writing year-end prediction lists, in the first instance, do so in an attempt to persuade you, dear reader, of their foresight, as if it’s a magical gift
. Many count on your disinterest in measuring their accuracy over the long term, though some are genuinely interested in spurring debate, using the forecast as a provocation, though labeling them as such would help.
On the other hand, there is a worrying movement in the other direction, toward the notion that one can quantify accuracy in qualitative “trendwatching
,” thanks to analytics (if we meet in person, ask me sometime about the executive recruiter for a top-tier tech company who insisted on knowing my percentage of correct forecasts). From where I stand, this is somewhat disingenuous, and perpetuates the harmful public notion that thinking about the future is a short-term win/lose activity, rather than a long game. Good luck to them.
In the upcoming issue of HOLO
, I write about the idea of distilling patterns and cycles in an attempt to “predict” the future, whether it’s decades away (in the case of wave theory) or the future as your next click (in the case of large scale predictive analytics). The pursuit of accuracy in foresight has gotten a boost from the advent of Big Data, but as with many useful endeavors, it’s not the tool, but what you do with it, both as forecaster and consumer of forecasts.
At any rate, I leave you with some interesting links below regarding how we think about futures, from worldviews to spreadsheets. Hopefully they will give you a prod this fine January to take a moment to assess and/or re-orient your own mental models for the coming year.