Wednesday, 10 August 2016
What a great job it must be, predicting the future. Unlike a normal job, where you are paid by results,
guessing forecasting future
events carries none of the anxiety-inducing stresses of meeting performance
criteria. No sleepless nights, agonising over whether the decision you have to
make tomorrow will end your career. No panic attacks that you will fail to hit your
targets. No worries over being judged and found wanting... at least not until
you are long dead. And unlike most Olympians, the best of your work is always
ahead of you..
The near future? Pah, that’s a mug’s game. No, what you need to do is first amass sufficient credibility by loudly explaining recent past events. Not too recent that the outcomes are yet to be fully known; not so long ago that people gave forgotten the basics. Ideally you should bring in an unconnected but highly topical event and conflate the two in an imaginative headline-grabbing way and promote it widely enough that the mere momentum of its ubiquity gives it a certain élan. For instance, that global islamic jihad is a by-product of climate change - that was a corker.
A flamboyant delivery always helps – perhaps effect an overtly camp persona and maybe adopt a speech tick - or possibly describe yourself as not being constrained by the traditionally rigid scientific disciplinary boundaries but offering a pan-socio-scientific vision which exceeds the normal confines of narrowly defined fields of study. You could be, for instance, a ‘chemo-physicist specialising in neural economics with an interest in the cyber-alignment of political narrative’, or some such concoction and say yes to any offer of media exposure.
Of course, it’s a fine line you tread; Mo Ansar’s mistake (remember him?) was adopting the mantle of wise representative of a faith while that faith was busily recruiting walking ordnance and declaring death to the west. It was all too close at hand and all too gloomy, yet not gloomy enough. And he was a twat. Credibility and hope is what you want to aim for, or credibility and doom. So, for instance, you could predict that in the future the long-awaited machine revolution will truly come and then you have a choice. You can either explain how this will let humans live in undreamed of luxury and indolence, or else you can portray an image of bonded slavery to mechanical masters.
Whatever you do say, should you live long enough to be wheeled out in fifty years’ time to reflect on the outcomes, you can blame the failure of the future to do as you expected on the fact that it was your own forecast that alerted people to change that future course, or else you can bask in the glory of a lucky guess. It’s a no-lose situation. Go on, give it a try; climate, the economy, population demographics, technology... all ripe for exploitation in the futures game.
A bit thundery...
Of course, it’s getting to be a crowded market and maybe the opportunities for soothsayers are not so rosy as they once were. As Michael Gove suggested, we’re all getting a bit fed up of experts offering contradictory advice and opposing opinions. But, trust me, I’ve been around a bit and I have studied the runes and I’m pretty confident in predicting that the game of telling the future has a healthy, er, future ahead of it. Just you wait and see. That'll be five quid, thanks.