We all see the future differently.
A brief survey of futurism follows, closing with my own predictions for 2018.
In the Hebrew Bible greater and lesser prophets told of the coming of the Messiah - son of a virgin, son of god, son of man (depending on the source). Centuries later, some Jews, believing Jesus was the Messiah, abandoned Judaism to form a new religion.
The ancient Greeks took their seers seriously too. “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts”, Cassandra wailed as the Trojans brought the horse inside their city walls. Unfortunately Cassandra was condemned to foretell the truth but never to be believed and Troy was sacked. And everyone knows the infamous oracle from Delphi saying Oedipus would kill his father and marry his mother, which he unwittingly did, creating a bonanza for Sigmund Freud some centuries after.
Nostradamus is credited with predicting the great fire of London, the rise of Hitler and the assassination of Kennedy. These days, psychics still make a living by reading palms, coffee sediments, tea leaves and tarot cards.
Bankers and executives thrive on forecasting. Loans would be impossible without figures that capture expectations on spreadsheets. Financial traders try to beat the markets and end up beating each other. Budgets remain the bibles of business but businessmen do get things wrong. William Orton, President of Western Union, declared in 1876 that “the telephone has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication”, and Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, said in 2007 “there’s no chance that the iPhone will get any significant market share. No chance.”
Science fiction writers imagined things before they actually happened, like travel to the moon, submarines, jukeboxes, holographs, fax machines (Jules Verne), communication satellites (Arthur Clarke) and the interaction of humans and robots (Isaac Asimov).
Along with Jehovah’s witnesses, economists are mocked for consistently wrong predictions. Except of course for John Maynard Keynes who argued, very convincingly, that “In the long run we are all dead”.
Here are my predictions for 2018.