It’s hard to predict the future – Episode 168

The Story: It takes more than a couple of trends to see past tomorrow

If you’ve never attempted to predict the future, and someone comes to you with a graph showing a clear trend, you might be tempted into thinking that that person knows what’s going to happen. The numbers don’t lie, and all we have to do is see where they go, to know what’s going to happen. Right? Wrong.

If you have tried to look into the future, and spent more than a few hours pondering about what the world will look like in five or ten years, you will know that it takes more than one graph or one trend line. Futurism requires looking at many trends, projecting how they might continue, and then imagining how they might interact – how one trend will accelerate another, and cause others to reverse.

Intelligent people, even be experts in their field, may recognise current trends, but that doesn’t mean that they have the skills to see where things will go in coming years. The problem is compounded when experts don’t recognise that futurism is actually outside their area of expertise.

In 1894, horse manure was such a problem in large cities that the New York Times predicted that in 50 years, the city would be covered by 9 feet of horse manure. It made perfect sense – that’s where the trend line lead. Likewise, people might tell you today that less and less jobs are being created, and when the new wave of automation arrives, young people will be permanently unemployed. Or they will tell you that the high birth rates of middle eastern countries compared to western countries mean that western culture will simply be bred out of existence.

What are the other factors at play? How can these simplified assessments be used to manipulate us, when they come from someone with an agenda? Find out in this trend-defying episode of … The Paradise Paradox!

The Eps:

Future-proofing your career – Episode 151

The Links:

Lauren Southern – Why we’ll forget about London

In A Nutshell – Why automation is different this time

Steven Pinker – The surprising decline in violence

The Cash:

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The Episode:

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