No, I didn’t just make up a word. It’s a real field of study that is a hairs breath away from fortune telling. The major difference is Futurists aim to predict the future of humanity versus the near-future of an individual. Both probably have the same success rate. However, Futurists tend to be legitimized by the markets, people looking to get ahead of the curve and invest in future technology, even if it doesn’t exist yet.
At first glance, this may seem silly, but if you look at the past, you can better understand why companies are interested in someone who can accurately predict the path of technology. You see this in Block Buster vs Netflix, Borders vs Barnes and Nobles, office supplies stores vs the Internet and Target. In each of these cases someone missed the boat, whether it was streaming movies, digital books or diversification and online presence.
Some work like fiction, asking “what if” questions and then story boarding the future as if that “what if” were true. Much of it is looking at present trends and extrapolating them to the future, which brings them in line with strategic planning occupations. What’s more interesting than the job of futurism, are the global “what ifs” from futurists looking at the bigger picture instead of a specific industry. These are the professors, not the business people. Let’s take a look at some of the favorite topics that swirl around the minds of Futurists.
Here are some innovations that might have escaped your notice, but aren’t as outlandish as they first appear. Let’s take 3D printers. Right now, they are shaping plastic and printing food. Cool, right? But what if they printed your clothes? You’d pay less per garment, but you’d pay for each design and the raw materials. Then there is the medical aspect. What if we could print organs using the same tissue from the patient to avoid the body rejecting the organ? This is a little trickier, since it would need to be in low gravity, so we’d need labs and manufacturing facilities in space. Can you see the future better now?
Then there is health care. Doctors could plug into a robot, half a world away, and perform surgery. The robots themselves will advance to perform surgeries and deliver babies. To those of us luxuriating in developed countries might find this scary. People without access to a specialist or a qualified doctor will be less creeped out.
How about connectivity? For the longest time, ownership has been the hallmark of ‘making it’ in the world. What do you have? What can you afford? Even now we are seeing that shift. Now we wonder what we can share. We can share cars, work spaces, homes, books, music and so on. From there how will our interactions change through the Internet? Instead of recording events as they take place, we could record our feelings and sensations as well. With enough of these memories recorded avatars of our loved ones could be created after they are gone. I’ll let you imagine all the places that one can go. Can you see the future more clearly now?