Oil the Predict-o-tron!

It's January and we've all just survived the twin bodyblows of year-end predictions and, well, CES, w
Changeist
Oil the Predict-o-tron!
By Changeist • Issue #8
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. 

What We've Been Up To
A number of speaking requests have been locked down for the first half of 2016 already this year, but in the spirit of fairness, we’ll have to wait for the event organizers to announce those soon. Otherwise, I’m already on the road, hopping between Amsterdam, London and Barcelona a number of times in the next month or more. Hopefully we’ll see one another somewhere out there.
Oil the Predict-o-tron!
Comrade Julian Hanna and James Auger, larging it in the harsh climates of Madeira, at Portugal’s Madeira Interactive Technologies Institute (MITI), lit the fuse on Crap Futures in late 2015, with the spirit of one of my literary heroes, Ray Bradbury, hovering over them. They are doing a great job of critically deconstructing the rusted, bent scaffolding of futures that outlived the 20th century. Part of that is an ongoing series looking at the constraints we face when imagining new futures. This is Part 1, on the ravenous beast of Progress, which stalks advocacy futurists as well as that new breed of thought leader, the Venture Capital Philosopher.  
Since it’s January, I’ll give you two servings. Someone’s digging up the past, Chuffy. 
One of the more sensible readings of recent popular works on the future, I give this macro-review of a handful of recent books in the FT a decent mark in part because it understands these works for what they are, explorations of possibility, rather than a recipe for success. “We are not passive observers of an unfolding drama, but actors shaping the story — and with a strong interest in how it turns out,” writes Stephen Cave. “Every time we take a new job or make a decision about our children’s education, we are speculating about how events will unfold.” 
Jose Valenzuela Ruiz wrote this for the lab at the Center for Contemporary Culture in Barcelona (CCCB) back in November, with a particular focus on the patron saint this newsletter issue, Ray Bradbury, and the file the FBI maintained on the author. Through the agency’s lens of paranoia, Bradbury’s work was weakening Americans’ resolve to withstand future conflicts. And now we want to colonize Mars. Go figure.
Lastly, I wrote this three-odd years ago for Quartz, and still agree with it today. When you see an prediction, ask yourself who benefits from the predicted outcome.
Re-transmit
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Changeist
A periodic look into research threads on critical futures, strategy, post-normal innovation, providing a look over the shoulder of the team at Changeist. Each issue includes brief analysis, links, updates, and occasional invisible hand gestures.
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