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Thought for the day

I was listening to the radio the other day and I heard the following exchange:

– Presenter: “I’ve got a futurologist with me tonight. So that means you’re an expert on the future.”

– Futurologist: “Well, just technology in my case, not the whole future, that’d be rather a lot.”

And it got me thinking. Isn’t that the problem with futurologists (in our sector they’re often called analysts), you can’t just take technology in isolation and try and predict its future as everything else gets in the way?

If it was just down to the technology, we could all be driving around in hover cars like we were promised all those years ago – but we’re not. So surely before making these wild predictions about technology in the future, people should also consider the society that might, or most likely might not, use that technology.

What do you think?

25 replies on “Thought for the day”

Yes that's where I don't often get on very well with some futurologists or analysts. There's usually a heck-of-a-lot of elements that have to come into play before big sweeping change can happen. I'm thinking, for example, of a lot of the future-gazing reports we see about such-and-such being a $100bn market by 2015.

Until the iPhone App Store went live and Apple reported 1 million, 30 million and later 60 million application downloads, a lot of companies in the industry weren't bothering with applications. Now, as Mr Jobs reckons he might have generated another half billion dollar industry singlehandedly: Witness the likes of RIM and T-Mobile stumbling over themselves to try and get friendly with application developers.

My take is that is exactly what a “futurologist” is – they are a blue sky, wishfull thinking person, one with no boundaries or constraints.

An analyst, looks at the existing and determines requirements.

Me, well I'm a product strategist and if I'm reading your post correctly would fit more into the role you envisage for a futurologist. My role is to look at the world around and find tech fit (or define a need for new tech).

Bit like the quote that goes something like “society would be great if it weren't for all the people.”

Or maybe it's not like that quote, but the point is that analysts get so myopic at times as to make me wonder how the whole 'analyst industry' has managed to survive! Predictions? Nah wishful thinking mixed with fanatical optimism!

@barneyc – That's exactly what I think a so-called futurologist should be. You can't determine the future if you don't take into account all the different elements.

Don't get me wrong, I think there are some great analysts (I don't know anyone that calls themself a 'futurologist'). But the ones that are good are those that consider not just can we introduce the technology, but whether we will and what the implications are.

@barneyc – That's exactly what I think a so-called futurologist should be. You can't determine the future if you don't take into account all the different elements.

Don't get me wrong, I think there are some great analysts (I don't know anyone that calls themself a 'futurologist'). But the ones that are good are those that consider not just can we introduce the technology, but whether we will and what the implications are.

Bit like the quote that goes something like “society would be great if it weren't for all the people.”

Or maybe it's not like that quote, but the point is that analysts get so myopic at times as to make me wonder how the whole 'analyst industry' has managed to survive! Predictions? Nah wishful thinking mixed with fanatical optimism!

@barneyc – That's exactly what I think a so-called futurologist should be. You can't determine the future if you don't take into account all the different elements.

Don't get me wrong, I think there are some great analysts (I don't know anyone that calls themself a 'futurologist'). But the ones that are good are those that consider not just can we introduce the technology, but whether we will and what the implications are.

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