The thoughts of Chairman Now

by BN18 Mar 2012

The older I get the more I suspect that the Jetsons were a stab in the dark.
Maybe they were only a cartoon and the animators weren't really serious futurists, however there are lots of other more recent examples in popular culture where folks just got it so wrong.
Have a look at "Blade Runner" again. A great flick made in 1982; but LA in 2019 (i.e. "only" a mere 37 years in the future), had acid rain, flying cars and a dominant Japanese culture. Hilarious, in hindsight.
Being a so- called futurist is a treacherous vocation- you can get totally blindsided by such things as the internet, for instance.
I had the opportunity of meeting Tim Berners-Lee, the 'inventor' of the World Wide Web, in 1996. I remember thinking "I wonder if this racket will really catch on" (not one of my better calls I have to admit).
Returning again to popular culture, maybe futurists should be more like the Patrick Jane character in the TV show "The Mentalist".
A former sideshow clairvoyant, he admits it was all a sham and uses his skills in 'cold reading' and hyper-observation to help catch the bad guys.
Herein lies a clue. Maybe 'true futurists' are, or should be, more like "Nowists". Maybe the trick is to look at observable data that exists now and draw meaningful conclusions for the immediate future. Maybe the true skill is to observe things that are happening right now that many haven't noticed yet (or refuse to notice?)
Statistics should help "Nowists" too.  Stats come in for a bad rap-you know lies, damn lies and statistics.  Not entirely fair.
It's most often not the statistics that are 'wrong'- it's the use to which they’re put- the observations made and the conclusions drawn from them that give them their bad press.
There are things that are observable and statistics available now that a future-Nowist can't ignore.
Carbon based fuels will become more expensive. The baby boom will turn into a baby whimper.  Gen X and Gen Y will be running things real soon (Obama is a cusp X'er!).  Collaborative consumption and "unplanned obsolescence" are on the rise.
As for Australian house prices continuing to double each 7-10 years?   A look at the stats and a bit of bush maths indicates that for this to happen, average household income will need to be around $230k by say, 2020 to qualify for a loan for 'the average dwelling' at reasonable LVR's.  Phooey.
A word of caution- future Nowists should be wary of the temptation to peer into the recent past in order to draw firm conclusions as to the near future.
With the pace of change in just about everything, because something happened under a set of stimuli before, doesn't necessarily mean that it'll happen that way again.
For instance if Banks start rationalizing branches again (as they did in the early 1990's) I think it's too early to call that this will 'automatically' be a boon for brokers.
We’ll need more observable data on this point, to my mind.
So maybe futurists should be a thing of the past and to thrive in a world of ceaseless change  we need to be ‘Nowists’ like the mentalist and a lot less like George Jetson.
A robot maid would have been nice however.

Remember- the future isn’t what it used to be Kym Dalton