Blog Pile

Tis the Season of Predictions

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cc licensed flickr photo by SiRi

About the most reliable prediction one can make this end time of year is the flood of people posting their own predictions for 2009, lots of them in the technology space (e.g. ReadWriteWeb, EDITing in the Dark, and Stephen Downes takes out the 10 year scope in an amazing essay I need some hours to read by the fire).

What is it about predictions? Why do people play the game?

It seems a lot of it is wanting to be “right”, to look back from the future, and pat our backs on hitting the target, as it thus proves our prescience. Heck, I’d like to have accurate predictions (emphasize “pre” like before) on say lottery numbers, horse races, implosions of the economy…) but as much certainty is written into the language, there is littler certainty. They are educated (sometimes) hunches.

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cc licensed flickr photo by Gare and Kitty

If we don’t hit the bulls eye, we recast our predictions… but it is all about certainty. I’ve relied a lot on presentations about emerging technologies on this quote from futurist Paul Saffo on How to Forecast the Future:

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Is this really significant or just semantic word play? I still don’t have the answer but there is something there, so as you wade through the piles pf predictions (rather than wading through piles of snow perhaps), watch the language– is there a lot of “I think…” statements? Look at the source of the prediction- is there perhaps another agenda?

A forecast ought to be based on some research, analysis of trends, a scanning of where we are, where that unevenly distributed future might be peeking out. But how to we deal, embrace, or taken advantage of that part of the quote on “appreciating uncertainty”? My hunch is humans are not all that comfortable about uncertainty.

I am not saying the prediction game is un-useful, and as you scan them are a few interesting echos- in a year twitter has gone from something quirky, weird, and a waste of time– to having recognized potential in instant communication. Lots of stuff happening in touch screen interfaces (did anyone predict the iPhone and its impact??). Barely seen a year ago, we are now glutted by writings on cloud computing (6.4 million google hits) — which gets more cloudier a concept as more is written on it, but see a recent Ars Technica interview for some more clarity.

My main prediction for 2009 is for more predictions to be made in the next few days. What’s yours?

Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.

Comments

  1. I wished I knew how to read you… (http://tinyurl.com/96fus8)

    I keep clicking links in your post and get sidetracked and then I click on a link in that article and go further astray… Is linearity gone?

    If so, I’m OK with that, but I am feeling the effects of splintered concentration and post-mental drip…

  2. I spend most of my time helping students grok the linearity of Newton, and the bent space of Einstein is (unfortunately) a minor portion of my teaching world.

    You dragged me into the WWW in ’93(-ish?) and the admonition to take a couple of LOLCATS grounded me again.

    Thanks for your leadership…

  3. Actually, the problem with predictions is that most of the analysis takes place 12 months hence when they have only historical interest. Maybe there is a place for applying something akin to the Delphi Method? Do the NMC Horizon reports fall under this heading?

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