|Photo by Fosco Lucarelli on Flickr|
The celebrated American physicist Michio Kaku
claimed that it is impossible to accurately predict the future, and he is right. When we try to predict anything, we always run up against a number of variables, and the longer time goes on, the more variables there are to consider. Astrologers tend to keep their predictions extremely vague, so they can be interpreted in many different ways. Gamblers have to be more specific, and as a result are spectacularly less successful, more often losing their money than winning. Predicting the future is a very risky business, because it hasn't happened yet.
Predicting the future one year down the track can be fairly straight forward, but to predict three years or even five years is increasingly precarious and can lead to some strange and unsupportable assumptions (see the Horizon Report
). Occasionally, I see some wonderfully misguided quotes about the future of technology. Some of the most notorious bad prediction are about what is not possible. Take the quote from Ken Olson, president of Digital Equipment Corporation who in 1977 said 'There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.'
Similar predictions were made about motion pictures (movies) by none other than movie mogul Harry Warner
who in 1927 opined: 'Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?'
and by Thomas Edison who said 'Books will soon be obsolete in public schools. Scholars will be instructed through the eye.'
Well, time has proven that motion pictures, video and multi-media have become an important part of our entertainment and education, we do
want to hear actors talk, and we don't
want to get rid of our books.
French philosopher Voltaire
was insightful about our problems with 'the future'. He said: 'Every man is a creature of the age in which he lives, and few are able to raise themselves above the ideas of their time.' Most of us look at what is around us and try to make predictions based on what we know, rather than what is possible. We restrict ourselves to the current mindset, and in so doing limit the extent to which we can imagine the future. In literature we find perhaps the richest vein of imagination, and probably always will. Writers such as H. G. Wells
, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Gene Roddenberry
, William Gibson and Robert Heinlein
pointed us to the future, where technology could achieve seemingly impossible aims. Doors that open when you approach them, global satellite coverage, personal communication systems, cyberspace, videophones, artificial intelligence, replicators and space travel all seemed impossible when they were written about, but now each of these is common place.
We may not be able to predict the future with any accuracy, but we can certainly imagine it - and in so doing, prepare the ground from which these ideas might grow for future generations.Future sense by Steve Wheeler
was written in Plymouth, England and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Posted by Steve Wheeler from Learning with e's