We are Created the future all the time. Every ad, every political campaign, every quarterly budget is a promise or threat about what tomorrow will look like. Whether we like it or not, it can sometimes feel like those futures are happening—we’re just along for the ride. But the future hasn’t happened yet. In fact, we’re getting an opinion and need to capture that voice as best we can. But how? I have been producing more than 180 episodes for the past eight years Flash forward. Here, in a three-part series, are the biggest things I’ve learned about how to think about what’s possible tomorrow. (This is part 2. Read on part 1And check back soon for Part 3.)
It’s easy, and Often very funny, laughing at past predictions of the future. In the 1905 book A Hundred Years Hence: An Optimist’s Expectations, author D. Baron Russell predicted the demise of stairs. “The plan of having the upper part of a small house, in each case, mounted on a kind of wooden hill, and covered with a carpet of questionable purity, would certainly have been abandoned,” he writes. “Doubtful that stairs will happen. They will be built after the next two or three decades.” Hundreds of lists online are full of false predictions—all of them Time The magazine confidently declared Remote shopping never wins to do The New York Times It says that a rocket cannot leave Earth’s orbit.
It’s much easier, and perhaps less fun, because we can feel like we’re on the cusp of something predictable, now. If you believe the people holding the microphone and giving speeches, or going on podcasts, or tweeting viral tweets, we’re on the verge of something truly revolutionary. What those revolutionary changes are – maybe it’s the apocalypse, or the singularity, or war, or a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. It doesn’t really matter which cliff we lean on. The bottom line is that we’re always half a step away from what’s on the other side.
But we? Can we really know that we are in a moment of change? Some historians and philosophers argue that we cannot know whether future people will care about our current events because we do not know what will happen next. Others say, no, you can tell right away if an event is historic. “Most of us have experienced in our own lives—unfortunately, probably too often lately—things that happen in the world and we think, wow, that’s a big deal,” he says. Matt ConnellyA historian and author of books on Columbia Classification engine. For Americans, moments like the planes hitting the Twin Towers or the January 6 uprising come to mind. “The moments where you think very quickly, ‘I’m going to tell my kids about this.'”
But those big events are rare. Each of them has minor incidents that only matter in retrospect. When van Leeuwenhoek showed people the first microscope, Nobody really cares. When Boris Yeltsin chose Vladimir Putin as his successor in August 1999, Most People—Even in Russia– I don’t think it will be a universal historical choice. When Alexander Graham Bell presented his new invention, the telephone, to Western Union in 1876, the company laughed at him. called a device “More than a toy.”
So which side of this argument is correct? And how does one find it? In 2019 Connelly began to do this with his essay.Predicting history.”
It is difficult to see whether past predictions are correct. One way to find out how good (or bad) we are at forecasting is to start polling people now about current events, then wait 30 years and see if those polls are right. But no one has done that because it’s impossible to get funding for that test, Connelly says.