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What's Up For the Future? Trends and Forecasts

Prepared by: Stan Dublinske, Senior Advisor for Planning

A statement of the direction of change; it is usually a gradual, long-term change in the forces shaping the future of an organization, a region, a nation, a sector, or society in general.
To estimate or calculate something in advance, especially to predict the future. A forecast is a prediction of coming events or conditions; a projection regarding the future direction related to an identified trend.
Analyze data to identify trends and build their forecasts. They study phenomena by making observations based on collected data. The purpose of their studies is to uncover relationships between current events and variables that will affect the future. The problem with many forecasts is that the large number of variables makes it difficult to make an accurate projection. Different futurists place different levels of value on certain variables, so it is not uncommon for the predictions of even the most respected futurists to be highly divergent.
A prediction about the future is only an ‘educated guess.' There are no ‘facts' about the future, only ‘opinions.' Futurists don't have a crystal ball. They examine trends and play out what-if scenarios. Futurists are the first to say that futurism isn't about telling the future; it's about examining trends and fleshing out scenarios.

Predicting the Future is Not Easy

  • Herman Kahn, an influential futurist in 1967 indicated that before the year 2000 permanent underwater settlements and artificial moons would be placed in the sky to illuminate wide areas.
  • In 1901, Wilbur Wright told his brother Orville that humans would not fly for another 50 years. Two years later, the two took off from Kitty Hawk.
  • Thomas Edison invented his phonograph as a machine for dictating letters, teaching speech, and archiving voices of famous people. Initially, he resisted the idea of using the phonograph for reproducing music.
  • Gordon Moore, an inventor of the microprocessor and cofounder of Intel, rejected a proposal in the 1970s for building a home computer. He said he didn't see anything useful in it and never gave it another thought.
  • Thomas Watson, Chairman of IBM in 1943 said, "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."
  • Consider IBM's 1980 boast. The company calculated that the world market for personal computers in the coming decade would be 275,000.
  • Irving Fisher, professor of economics, Yale University, 1929, said, "Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau."
  • H.M. Warner in 1927, considering the technology of sound with film said, "Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?"
  • "The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay to send a message to nobody in particular?
  • David Sarnoff's investors in response to his request for investment in radio in the 1920s.
  • Bill Gates in 1981 said that "640K ought to be enough for anybody."

Trends and Forecasts


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