Yes, people are bad at predicting the future of technologies, except for that small slice that do a great job. Moore’s Law. Heinlein’s prediction of an atomic weapon in 1940. Huxley’s insights about anti-depressants. Arthur C Clark’s vision of geosynchronous communications satellites in 1945. John Brunner’s 1973 prediction of electric cars. Karel Čapek’s play, R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots) written in 1920. The list goes on.

In 1999, I predicted that ‘social tools’ would reshape society, business, and media, tools that weren’t about speeding up communications ‘but intended to shape culture’.

And I almost forgot Asimov’s Visit to the World’s Fair of 2014, written in 1964:

The world of A.D. 2014 will have few routine jobs that cannot be done better by some machine than by any human being. Mankind will therefore have become largely a race of machine tenders.

Most of these predictions get lost or forgotten, but we have to be careful not to say the future can’t be predicted. It can, but only a few people can do it.

Written by

Work ecologist. Founder, Work Futures. The ecology of work and the anthropology of the future.

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