Does Futurism Have A Future?

from the predicting-what-now? dept

It’s always fun to read about what various “futurists” have to say, even if it it’s pretty rare that anyone goes back and looks at how accurate the futurists really are. Slate is looking at the latest generation of futurists and noting that it basically seems like more of the same. Everyone’s big on technology, but some think the technology will be empowering, while others think it will be damaging. Still, it seems like the real problem with futurism is the name. It suggests that people are actually predicting the future — which no one can really do. The value in futurism isn’t in predicting the future, but in raising different possibilities that people might not have thought about otherwise. That helps people better understand multiple possible futures, and think about what would need to be done in any of them. This way, people aren’t caught offguard by innovations and changes. Unfortunately, though, with the name “futurists” being used, too many are dismissed as random musings of people trying to predict a future they’ll never get right.

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Comments on “Does Futurism Have A Future?”

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Bubba Nicholson (profile) says:

Don't stop thinking about the future!

Society cannot afford to advance by default by the physical deaths of holders of backward ideology! We can kill racism without killing all the racists. Think about this and think about the future. Because if we stop thinking about the future, if the future holds no more allure for us, if we ignore planning to make things better and give up on futurism, then the enemies of harmony and peace will hold sway in times to come merely for their pleasure in holding power over us.

Rudolph Delc A. says:

Futurogy or Forecasting

This system only works thanks to the closest & more advanced and strange true science: Quantum. Everything is just probable, nothing is certain but we certainly know what tomorrow will be like for us.

With a good set of past and present information any pro can forecast the path of anything, never a 100% but pretty close. One doesn’t call the weather man a futurist but just a forecaster but some PREDICTED Katrina’s disaster to the milimeter. No one believed though, and that’s our problem, not theirs. Give me some past data and could forecast Bush’s & Gates’ fall(true democracy being true)

Joe (profile) says:

Re: Futurogy or Forecasting

You are aware that America is not a “True Democracy” aren’t you? It’s more of a republic than a democracy. We vote for leaders, they cast votes for us for the next 2-6 years pending on the position etc. A true democracy would have the citizens all voting and all votes being counted so that a majority would be happy with any law being passed.

I can just imagine someone going in true democratic fashion and asking for the speed limits to be raised 10 MPH nationally, over half the population would vote for it and then you would find a lot more dead people on the roads. Not that I believe speed limits are accurate but some sharp turns require slower speeds.

Lar (user link) says:

Lack of accountability dooms the futurists

The problem with futurists is that they are unaccountable. They merely postulate what is possible without considering what is probable. They never revisit past predictions for lessons learned, so they repeat their mistakes again and again, and become irrelevant.

Where’s my jet pack? Where’s my 3D wrist TV? Sometimes things that are technically feasible don’t happen for nontechnical reasons, and these reasons are important yet ignored.

Topher3105 (profile) says:

The problem with futurism

Is thinking its a profession. Its not. We don’t need think tanks wondering about what will happen a year, a decade, a century from now. We can all pick up a good sci-fi book and wonder about the future. In fact, most “futurists” tend to be fiction writers, like Arthur C Clark. They throw out so many new ideas that eventually some of them are correct. The problem is thinking they have some clearer sense of the future. Again, write 100 books about the future, and eventually your going to predict something that will happen. It’s called playing the ODDS.

What we need is more people thinking about now, how to deal with today’s problems, so that we will have a future. There is no point wondering what the future of computers or robots or science in general will bring if our earth is on the brink of devastation from global warming. In fact, there are not enough minds on global warming because they don’t really seem to know what is going on, just alarmists predicting the end of the earth because our cars exhaust carbon dioxide or monoxide. These futurists posing as scientists saying that if we don’t change our ways, we will be doomed. Offer us a solution on how we can change our ways rather then alarmist grand standing.

We need more people thinking about solutions NOW rather then what it will be like later. I equate futurists to psychics, roadshow con artists that will take your money to tell you what you want to hear. There is nothing “professional” about this.

DA says:

Too many question marks

A little non-sequitor: 5 of the 6 top headlines on TechDirt end with a question mark. It seems like kind of a cop-out: couching opinion and analysis (which is what I come to TechDirt for) as an open-ended question. I would prefer that you make your point and let the community discuss its merits (ignoring the trolls and people writing about meta-issues such as the prevalence of question marks).

Anonymous Coward says:

“What we need is more people thinking about now, how to deal with today’s problems, so that we will have a future. There is no point wondering what the future of computers or robots or science in general will bring if our earth is on the brink of devastation from global warming.”

Uhm.. That global warming thing? That is one of those things we need futurists to work on.

chip2022 says:

The problem with armchair thinkers

I agree that we need people thinking about now. We need people thinking about the possible future too.

The best minds will think about a problem and work towards a solution to that problem. They are often consumed with one task. A necessary process.

People that can think about many tasks, evaluate the possibilites and probabilities, and guide others to think about these are also necessary.

You can sit in your chair and demand solutions but this is not productive. Get passionate about something and get involved.

Lindsay says:

I saw a “futurist” give a lecture at a GIS conference and he was great. He talked about the future that you CAN predict, the forseeable future, i believe he called it. Its a rather simple, yet brilliant idea. There are trends that look promising and might continue and there are trends that will definitely continue. You need to focus on the latter. As an example, he said we should consider retirement lifestyle needs because baby boomers are retiring, getting sick, and their large percentage of the population will place great demands on our society in the next decade. There is no doubt about that–it’s going to happen. His name is Daniel Burrus.

Campbell says:

The Now of the Future

“What we need is more people thinking about now, how to deal with today’s problems, so that we will have a future.”


“Uhm.. That global warming thing? That is one of those things we need futurists to work on.”

The real issue is that futurists are needed to spark the imagination to solve the daily problems. But without sufficient focus on the here and now, there cannot be accurate futuristic trends. It doesn’t help having the futurists redesign the armchair, if the person to use the armchair is dead, deformed, or still trying to get a hot meal.

I agree wholeheartedly with chip2022 (although not yet actively… inherent laziness… sigh) about needing to get up and DO something. THIS is the problem with our current population of able-bodied people – we are sure that we can change the world with a keyboard.

r3t4rd3d says:


I don’t know what is going on at Techdirt lately, but the quality of the articles took a _SERIOUS_ dive this week.

I don’t know about everyone else, but I prefer nothing over a fluff piece like this. Its the equivalent of your local news station running a “public interest” piece.

Please get back to reporting on something a little more substantial for those of us who can handle multi-syllable words.

Normally, I look forward to reading posts during lunch (or while killing time in pointless meetings).

Please don’t tell me that you’ve jumped the shark. 🙁

Hopefully you’re just having an off week…

me says:

RE: Lack of accountability dooms the futurists

> Where’s my jet pack? Where’s my 3D wrist TV? Sometimes things that are technically feasible don’t happen for nontechnical reasons, and these reasons are important yet ignored.

Although I agree that all “futurists” are nothing more than lame butts trying to make money by making up crap, you’re examples aren’t good ones.

Where’s my jet pack? You can by one of these things. It costs about $25, 000 for each 15 second ride. If Jerry Sienfield took the $5 million per episode deal offered to him, he would be the only person capable of using a jetpack to commute to work. The technology has been around for a long time, it just isn’t cheap to use.

Where’s my 3D wrist TV? Didn’t you get the memo? I’ll forward a copy to you. No one uses wrist watches anymore. We all use cell phones. Your TV is on your cell phone. You can download some old 3D movies, but everyone thinks they are lame.

Anonymous of Course says:

Re: RE: Lack of accountability dooms the futurists

I’m still waiting for my flying car and a nuclear reactor in my

basment, that Popular Science promised me I’d have long

before now. Electricty was going to be free, work would

be optional… these guys never get it right.

That said, I have a much easier life than my parents or

grandparents. Change just doesn’t come as fast as

we imagine.

I wonder what the age of genetic engineering will bring?

kweeket says:

David Brin (a science fiction author) had the idea to set up an open Predictions Registry, based on scientific ideals of peer-review and accountability. Anyone could submit their prognotications, and over time there would be a record of who was right, and how often.

It’s a neat idea, already partially implemented by longbets. People make predictions, and occasionally bet on them (winnings go to charity).

Ntlgnce (profile) says:

They missed one group. Its called realitists.

Goverments will control all the gas. Helping robots will be a big part of everyones day. Instead of computers, People will own, “smart screens”, Small notebook pc’s with just a touch screen, which will be constantly connected to TV, Phone, and Instanet. (10GBps. wireless), and to there home applyances. Motor cars will be littering the streets, where they ran out of gas. all being generaly worthless. Heat and storms will be a constant threat. High water will have sunken citys globally. Socity will be experimenting with colonizing other planets AS A WAY TO SAVE HUMANITY, Global warming’s effects will have proved irreversable, (they will be saying that it was earth’s destany, and not Global warming that caused the earth to heat.).

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