Why is it so Difficult to Foresee the Future?

Crystal Gazing
We all like to imagine what the future will be like - driverless cars, robots, increased leisure time - but the truth is we haven’t a clue.

We stand here, in the early part of the 21st Century, happily forecasting the changes that are coming, little knowing how wrong we are. 

We look with amazement at how far we’ve come: touchscreen phones, tablets, smart TVs. All things that we couldn’t have imagined back in the 20th Century - and we boldly think we can see what’s coming.

In truth, the only certain thing is that we cannot, in our wildest dreams, imagine what is to come. 

I know this, because we are no different from all those who went before us. They were also sure they could see the future and yet it caught them out every time.

This section of my website looks in closer detail at why it’s so difficult to foresee the future and makes an attempt to get a glimpse into some aspects of it. You’ll find it a fascinating journey.

It also sits neatly alongside the Education section - because how should we educate children for a world in which the only thing we know for certain is that we have no idea what it will be like?

Here are two quick examples from the past:-

Example 1: Iron and Steam
When iron was first produced in quantity, they built a bridge using woodworking joints. It took the invention of rivets and welding before the future could begin.

Dovetail joints cast in iron
Woodworking joints, cast in iron, connect cast iron girders

Those bridge builders couldn’t foresee the enormous changes that their new technology would bring:-

British crimson and cream railway carriages

Diagram of an early steam locomotive

  • The very idea of replacing horses with engines was impossible to glimpse. No crystal ball could have seen it coming.

  • The idea that ordinary people might have actual leisure time and enough surplus food and money go on holiday by train could not be imagined in their wildest dreams.



Example 2: Typesetting

A linotype machine designed for setting type quickly

When the linotype machine threatened to put thousands of typesetters out of work, they rioted. They thought they could see the way the future would unfold - they’d lose their jobs! But they were wrong:-

  • The printed word became cheap.

  • Hundreds of thousands of jobs were created.

  • Every child in the country was taught to read.

If you’d like to try your hand at seeing whats to come, read on . . .

© Brian Smith 2015