I had a lot of questions about the future as a child. I wanted conveyer belt sidewalks. I could tie a rope to a tree and skate board all day long. But then, do they run all night? Will they eventually squeak? Why would we need them if we are all living in elevated pods connected by monorails? We will all have personal rockets and vacation domes on the moon which brings us to the space helmets. From what I could tell there were two kinds of space helmets, the fishbowl with the vacuum cleaner hose and the one with fins which were far cooler but led to the further question: Do you really want to be in a situation where your helmet requires fins? The fishbowl always seemed fragile or at least unwieldy.
If you really want to know how NOT to predict the future, read "The Omni Future Almanac" by the editors of the now extinct "Omni Magazine." The book was published in 1981. The writers for the magazine would take existing technology such as the laser disc, and try to extrapolate out how the technology will be used 10, 20 and 30 years out to hilarious effect. It not only makes ridiculous predictions about the future but it even makes the claim for "The Only Current Major Athletic Record That May Never Be Broken" - Beaman's 29' 2.5" long jump in the '68 Olympics. And guess what? It was broken by Mike Powell in the Tokyo World Championships in 1991 by two inches. But notice the qualifier "That May." That is an important futurist tool. Among my favorite claims are:
- Moving Sidewalks will not gain widespread acceptance...until the Variflex Moving Sidewalk is developed from practical use in the early 1990s. (p.48)
- AIDs and cancer cured in the early 1990s and a vaccine for tooth decay soon following. (p.56-57)
- We will have nuclear power plants orbiting the earth by the early 90s. (p.133)
- Health care costs will drop 20% (no date given!). (p. 157).
- Their economic predictions throughout the book are a scream.
- There will be armies of low-cost robots performing all of our menial labor by 2000. (p.177)
The cardinal rules of being a Futurist include:
- Keep it vague and broad ("I see an exponential increase in computer memory storage..."
- Make numerous contradictory predictions, trot out the winners at the end of the year
- Qualify everything ("Perhaps..." "Something like..." "May be...")
- Predict "forces of change" that will cover the tracks of predictions gone awry ("Given current conditions and rates of progress, a new vaccine will...")
- Wear a Nehru jacket or a black turtle neck