Where do you start
How do you know when you’re done?
This second question is supposed to be funny. I hope you at least smiled.
I think the best way to get started is to read and see what well known and renowned futurologists are doing in your industry. Also, by delving deep into areas that you are interested in. I know that sounds pretty obvious, but that’s how we learn, see, and predict what others are doing. I have a couple of recommendations, however.
Tips for future futurologists:
- Write down what you think today
- Write down what you think tomorrow will be like
- Most importantly – rate yourself. Take the time to go back to what you wrote earlier and give yourself a grade.
History has to repeat itself.
Or, perhaps better said, is …
Don’t ignore the story
While it is true that advances in technology will affect the way the future is realized, the fact remains that many of the things we have seen have already happened in some way, shape, or form.
Is there anything new that has been developed? For sure. But the way people interpret these innovations often follows a pattern.
Will that change when more AI and robots take over? That is hard to say.
Perhaps you have a prognosis for this. Share them in the comments if you tend to.
So what is your definition of a futurist?
The good news is … you can define who a futurist is. In a way, everyone is a futurist. However, some people are much better at predicting things further into the future than others. By “better”, I mean that they have a proven track record in predicting the future. See the first 3 points at the beginning of this post.
If you live in the technology field, you likely have several people whom you have observed over the years as “good” and “predictable” futurologists.
Some are more general than others, but they recognized and documented trends. And often they have been proven to be true.
For example, Gordon Moore from Intel came up with … what else … Moore’s Law.
Moore’s Law is the observation that the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles roughly every two years.
This has been true for several decades. There were and are physical and technological factors that influenced each iteration. It is likely that this will intensify in the years to come with the advent of quantum computing and ongoing improvements in design, manufacture, and other factors.
What does it mean to be a futurist?
Does being a futurist mean accurately predicting the future at a specific time and place? I think the answer is no. I would of course like to hear your thoughts in the comments. Futurists are especially good at making predictions 10, 20, or even 50 years from now. Yes, many of these are educated guesses. But the education and thinking behind these “guesses” can take years. To me, a futurist is anyone who takes the time to make bold predictions and write them down or put them on video. As mentioned in point 3 above, this is the definition of a good futurologist
Can a futurist be a science fiction writer?
Absolutely. Science fiction writers, or as they are sometimes called speculative fiction writers, often have an imaginative and somewhat forward-looking vision of what the future might be. Does what they say and show always get through? Absolutely not. You’re writing a story. Don’t necessarily try to be futurists.
A few great writers that come to mind are HG Wells, Jules Verne, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, and Edgar Rice Burroughs. There are many, many others. I’m just using this as an example. But each of them created amazing worlds and people with equally amazing abilities that seem
What about real futurists? Here are some of my favorites:
You may disagree with my list and I encourage you to add yours to the comments
- Engineering and Publishing – Tim O’Reilly
- Technology and Society – Buckminster Fuller
- Economist – Milton Friedman – A thinker with a futuristic economic thinking
- Government – Amy Webb and the Need for the Department of the Future
- Philanthropy – Bill Gates and Warren Buffett
I’m also a fan of Seth Godin, Malcolm Gladwell, and the guys at Freakonomics.
What about reverse futurists?
There are people out there who just want to tell it for what it is, and I would argue that they are not necessarily what I would call a futurist by definition. But for lack of better terms, you are a “reverse futurist”
People like Tom Peters, who wrote the groundbreaking book In Search of Excellence and who speaks regularly about what’s really going on in the workplace. By definition, it does not describe the future, but the present. But often the present that he describes is what one can and should imagine as the future of the company. , the present he describes is often what one can and should imagine as a company of the future.
Others who fit into this category, W. Edwards Deming, Alfred Sloan, Thomas Watson Sr., and many others who defined their vision and most importantly put it into practice and built businesses based on their vision. Using their specialized skills in error reduction, automation, technology adoption, they created a framework to shape the future of the companies they worked with and / or built from the ground up.
Back to the futurist. I think the future will continue to promise a lot and will allow those who are willing to make bold predictions to keep making those predictions. For those who try and those who end up having a little bit of success, they will find that they stand out in your career. If you try and find that you are not good at it … don’t give up. Try again and remember the first three points above. The more you try, the better you get.
So you want to become a futurist?
It’s never been easier to try. Maybe you won’t change the world, but I don’t think that’s the most critical part of being a futurist. Unless you expect to be paid for your vision. And there is nothing wrong with getting paid for your vision. But there’s nothing wrong with making predictions, backing them up with facts, writing them down, and giving yourself a grade on how you performed on your predictions
As Tim O’Reilly said in his book WTF … “I was only named for an article I wrote that ended up doing a lot of things right.”
The essay was “What is Web 2.0”
He said it much more modestly. He said “I didn’t invent the future … I drew a map of current technology … which is changing the business landscape shift“And in a way, it’s about being a futurist. Think about cards, find missing pieces, align your thoughts, and try to fill in the blanks. It’s not easy and maybe it takes a special kind of creative thinking, but I think almost anyone can get down to work and “become” a futurist. If only for a little while out there in the future. You will never know until you try. So just give it a try.
Some of the modern day futurists I’ve followed include:
Yes, they are all women. Note: the future is female. At least the way I think of futurists. One in which we are tapping a resource that is far from being used. Women were and are severely underrepresented. Imagine … including the “other” 50% of the world’s population. Women were and are severely underrepresented in STEM and all other areas. We can fix that. I’ve been working on this for several years and will continue to advocate for more women in technology (and in all other areas).
So you still want to be a futurist?
Read about and learn from some of the people I mention here. Follow the first three points and especially the third point. See how you are. Perhaps you have a knack for predicting the future and can confidently call yourself a futurologist. Hopefully.