Interview of BT Futurologist Ian Pearson

ITWales interview of Ian Pearson (BT's "futurologist") raises some interesting issues. Some excerpts about the methods:

How do you and your colleagues make your predictions?

I track future technologies that are coming over the horizon, so as soon as we learn that somebody is doing some research in a particular field, we start putting that together with all the other bits of research that everyone else is doing, and try to figure out what people might try to use that for once it becomes real technology in a decade or so. If one person is doing research on this, and another is doing research on that then companies A, B and C may be able to make products using that kind of basic technology, and if we can anticipate what they might look like then we might figure out how people will use those in society and in business to change their lifestyle.

It's a question of second guessing what people will do, which requires sitting around and talking about it an awful lot really. What we end up with is a whole stack of possibilities of how people could realistically use technology to improve their lives, or get market advantage, or whatever, and if there are good enough reasons for doing that then we can be fairly certain that people will actually do it. If, on the other hand, it's just a whacky idea, like networking every single thing in your home so that you can close the curtains from the comfort of the office, then not many people are going to want to do it, so it would probably be a flop in the marketplace. So we use common sense to throw away the things that people probably won't want to do, and filter out those things that are quite realistic, and will succeed in the market. (...) In terms of keeping up, I wouldn't say that I do. I stopped keeping up round about 1993 or 1994! Since then things have been moving so fast you can't really keep up, all you can do is hope to not fall too far behind. I don't pretend to keep track of 100% of new technologies now. I keep track of some of the key ones, and there are still some surprises (...) In terms of filtering them, the only tools that you can really use are ordinary everyday common sense and some business intuition.

Why do I blog this? apart from methodological content that struck me, Pearson discusses lots of issues (ranging from androids to computers writing their own software, as well as security and 'biology IT'), some of his thoughts are quite relevant. The most down-to-earth ideas he describes are related to "social computing".