Saturday, November 26, 2005


I found this interview with a "futurist" and it got me thinking about something that has been rankling me for a while. What are the criteria that define a futurist? Shouldn't every scientist working on problems that might have an impact 10-15 years down the road be called one? Or is it someone who talks about how our life is going to change? Most of the futurists I have run into are neo-Luddites (Bill Joy's classic wired article comes to mind), or AI evangelists like Ray Kurzweil. I have great respect for both Joy and Kurzweil, but I do think that while it is wonderful to have thinkers looking far into the future, I wonder if there is a disconnect from reality. In a way, I think some of the conclusions that futurists come to are in a way quite simplistic, while the underlying assumptions are often very complex.

Further reading:
  • Law of accelerating returns
  • What is the Singularity?

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    At 7:58 AM, Anonymous Michael Anissimov said...

    A futurist is someone who has read a threshold amount of material on futurist speculation, and is informed enough to formulate novel speculations with a certain degree of plausibility. It also helps if it's something you do full time. And obviously the best way to predict the future is to create it.

    At 8:52 AM, Blogger Deepak Singh said...


    I understand the concept, but then isn't every other scientist a futurist in some way. For example, if one is trying to understand the molecular mechanism of amyloidosis, knowing very well that it will be put to practical use in a therapy some years in the future, doesn't it make that person a futurist as well. What worries me about the term is that it mskes the non-technical people take us less seriously. In other words my problems are mostly with the word itself, and the underlying connotations.

    One area I completely agree with you; the best way to predict the future is definitely to create/shape it yourself


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