What happens when predictions about the future go wrong? Should we just laugh at them, or is there something we can learn from even the goofiest prognostications about unisex jumpsuits and food pills? Futurist Jamais Cascio believes there is — he says we can use forensic futurism to diagnose why predictions go wrong. What he has to say is as relevant to science fiction as it is to futurism, since both often predict futures that never happen.
Here's what Cascio suggests:
It's not enough simply to point and ridicule about whacky futurists. Those of us in the discipline really need to examine why serious forecasts can turn out to be terribly wrong. This takes two related forms:
Understanding why forecast X didn't happen as expected. Maybe we thought that certain drivers would continue to be important, or that other drivers wouldn't be important, or perhaps simply never expected a "Black Swan" event. This is a useful practice for all foresight professionals, in order to better understand (and ultimately to communicate) how reasonable expectations can go terribly wrong.
Understanding why X was forecast in the first place. This is the more difficult process, as it requires engaging in an objective, dispassionate look at how futurists came to their conclusions. Not simply what they looked at, the lines of evidence they selected as important, but why they chose those lines of evidence in the first place.
Read the rest of Cascio's essay on Open the Future.