The Economist about the future of futurology

Just found this article about "the future of futurology" in The World in 2008 of The Economist. It starts of by describing how the word “futurologist” has disappeared from the business and academic world, so has the so-called "futurology" discipline (although "there are still some hold-outs prophesying at the planetary level"). The new thing is rather about scenario-building and storytelling, which is not a surprise. What is interesting is the underlying reason proposed by the author:

"We can see now that the golden age of blockbuster futurology in the 1960s and 1970s was caused, not by the onset of profound technological and social change, but by the absence of it. The great determining technologies—electricity, the telephone, the internal combustion engine, even manned flight—were the products of a previous century, and their applications were well understood. The geopolitical fundamentals were stable, too, thanks to the cold war. Futurologists extrapolated the most obvious possibilities, with computers and nuclear weapons as their wild cards. The big difference today is that we assume our determining forces to be ones that 99% of us do not understand at all: genetic engineering, nanotechnology, climate change, clashing cultures and seemingly limitless computing power. When the popular sense of direction is baffled, there is no conventional wisdom for futurologists to appropriate or contradict."

The author also points out to some advices:

  1. the next rule lays in thinking short term (“Microtrends”... "nanotrends")
  2. " say you don’t know. Uncertainty looks smarter than ever before"
  3. "for the budding futurist: get embedded in a particular industry, preferably something to do with computing or national security or global warming. All are fast-growing industries fascinated by uncertainty and with little use for generalists. Global warming, in particular, is making general-purpose futurology all but futile. When the best scientists in the field say openly that they can only guess at the long-term effects, how can a futurologist do better?"
  4. "talk less, listen more. Thanks to the internet, every intelligent person can amass the sort of information that used to need travel, networking, research assistants, access to power"

Why do I blog this? quite interesting food for thought here, and I agree with the rules.