Predicting the Future

Several years ago, someone who knows my tastes well gave me a paperback book, “A History of Knowledge,” for Christmas.  There, the author describes the various stages of European knowledge and adds many interesting insights.  Altogether, an excellent book by a scholarly author, just the kind I like to read.

He ends with the chapter “The Next Hundred Years,” although he quickly says how impossible predictions are this far in the future and he will only try to predict the next ten.

Ah-ha!  This should be interesting, I thought.  The publication date was 1990, so I know how things turned out.  Let’s see how right he was.

He had nothing right.  Not a thing.  I could go through the entire chapter and check them off— wrong, wrong, wrong.  On computers, he expected advances in artificial intelligence would bring them to a level where they would learn and think for us.  He totally missed the growth of the Internet and the computer becoming a major communications tool.  He expected we would have a space station on the moon, missing the economic realities.  He expected the mapping of the human genome would cure all infirmities, not realizing how complex gene interaction would prove to be. He expected cures for cancer but totally missed the AIDS epidemic.

How could such a brilliant mind be so wrong?  The answer is that the future is darn hard to predict, even major trends just ten years out.  A double presidential term of eight years is not much easier.

What will the economy be in 2019?  What will the world be like?  Whatever you think, you will probably be wrong.  The future rarely goes as expected.  Today, that could be good news.

About Roger Walck

My reasons for writing this blog are spelled out in the posting of 10/1/2012, Montaigne's Essays. They are probably not what you think.
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