Not long ago I wrote about an interesting way to apply math to predicting the future. Now I have come across an interesting article called Welcome to the Future by writer Gavin Edwards on his site Rule Forty Two which summarizes nine future predicting authors, and how well they have stood up to the test of time. It is quite thorough and covers a lot, and he evens ends with some predictions of his own. Be sure to get down to the part about David Goodman Croly (1829-1889), “the greatest prophet you’ve never heard of” with an accuracy rate of 75%

Most of the futurists I read focused on the rise and fall of governments, and especially, the progress of technology and the sciences. The future of art and literature got short shrift, as did sex and religion. At first, I thought this was because too many of the predictors considered their readership to be drawn from the business community. But that didn’t wash: an accurate prediction of fashion trends, or societal attitudes towards sex, would be immensely valuable to any savvy investor or corporate type. Would-be prophets avoid arts and entertainment because they seem too difficult to pin down, too trend-driven. Science provides the illusion that progress occurs in an orderly fashion…

As I immersed myself in futurism, I waded through promise after promise of electric cars, unified world government, and videophones. (For decades, certain favorite predictions have been coming along Real Soon Now.) But before I burned out on days of future past, I resolved to grade leniently. If a prediction seemed to be mostly correct, even if it mangled some details, I gave the futurist credit. If they correctly described the effects of a technology but misunderstood the mechanism of it, that was accurate enough for me.

Welcome to the Future


One often overlooked future prediction comes from rock star and writer Pete Townshend. His failed and then reborn 1970’s rock opera project Lifehouse featured people living in a world where pollution is so bad they are forced to stay in Lifesuits and obtain all their experiences and social interaction by plugging in to “The Grid”, a huge global computer network not so unlike today’s internet and social networking sites.

Commenter Bobbie Dawn adds a reference to writer Orson Scott Card and asserts his prediction of blogging in Enders Game makes him particularly relevant to bloggers. I looked him up and, admittitly not having read Enders Game, could not find information on his predictions. I instead found him described as a right wing Bush war supporter and homophobe, not that that invalidates his writing, but it does make me less likely to want to read his work.