Friday, November 06, 2009


from an email:

Beware of Futurists

I love attending conventions which feature futurists as keynote speakers. They are always entertaining, thought-provoking and even exhilarating when you consider the possibilities they espouse.

But they’re seldom right!

In the late seventies I attended a cable convention at which a futurist predicted grocery stores would disappear within ten years. He talked about the technology which already existed to shop virtually on your TV, strolling the aisles from the comfort of your living room, placing your order with the click of a button and having it delivered to your doorstep within the hour.

It was an exciting presentation to say the least. But alas, the last time I checked, people are still going to the grocery store 30 years after that prediction.

I once attended a seminar where I purchased a tape of Faith Popcorn (what a great promotional name!), making predictions about the future. It was exciting stuff, so I put that tape in a time capsule at my home and listened to it ten years later. When I opened my capsule, I discovered that less than 5% of her predictions had become reality.

I have since done the same thing with a number of futurists…..reviewed their material years after their predictions, and none of them ever beat Faith’s record of 5% success.

But I still love to hear these fantasies, and I encourage anyone who has the opportunity to attend a futurist’s presentation to do so. It’s a great opportunity to take your focus off of the problems of the past and consider the possibilities of the future.

Just remember that market acceptance of technology does not keep pace with technology. The first FM radio license was granted in 1937, yet 35 years later, less than 25% of the cars on the road had an FM radio.

And it wasn’t that long ago that people who claimed to predict the future were burned at the stake as witches.

Technology is being accepted much more rapidly with each ensuing decade, but the futurists’ predictions seldom reflect reality. Knowing this, I still encourage you to consider their theories as a way of broadening your horizons and opening your mind to new ways of doing things. Just don’t rely on their predictions as the foundation for your business plan.

Wayne Ens

ENSMedia Inc.


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Dave Sanders said...

Read some Ray Kurzweil. While I don't agree with all of his predictions he DOES have an impressive track record, and backs up most of his predictions on hard data. He has a knack for extrapolating data out in the future to make predictions. He is also smart enough to make predictions that are not flexible, and a lot of his predictions are about what would be POSSIBLE, not necessarily what the market would be buying.

Predictions, like most things, are only as good as the data that goes into them.

ScLoHo (Scott Howard) said...

Thanks Dave for your recommendation.

One of the books I am currently reading is Freakonmics, which has some pretty enlightening thoughts on why the growth of crime in the 1980's and 90's that was predicted to overwhelm us, suddenly dropped.