“The goal of forecasting is not to predict the future but to tell you what you need to know to take meaningful action in the present.”
from Paul Saffo's talk at the long now foundation summarised by stewart brand
Reflecting on his 25 years as a forecaster, Paul Saffo pointed out that a forecaster's job is not to predict outcomes, but to map the “cone of uncertainty” on a subject. Where are the edges of what might happen? (Uncertainty is cone-shaped because it expands as you project further into the future— next decade has more surprises in store than next week.)
Rule: Wild cards sensitize us to surprise , and they push the edges of the cone out further. You can call weird imaginings a wild card and not be ridiculed. Science fiction is brilliant at this, and often predictive, because it plants idea bombs in teenagers which they make real 15 years later.
Rule: Change is never linear . Our expectations are linear, but new technologies come in “S” curves, so we routinely overestimate short-term change and underestimate long-term change. “Never mistake a clear view for a short distance.”
“Inflection points are tiptoeing past us all the time.” He saw one at the DARPA Grand Challenge race for robot cars in the Mojave Desert in 2004 and 2005. In 2004 no cars finished the race, and only four got off the starting line. In 2005, all 23 cars started and five finished.
Rule: Look for indicators - things that don't fit. At the same time the robot cars were triumphing in the desert, 108 human-driven cars piled into one another in the fog on a nearby freeway. A survey of owners of Roomba robot vacuum cleaners showed that 2/3 of owners give the machine a personal name, and 1/3 take it with them on vacations.
Rule: Look back twice as far . Every decade lately there's a new technology that sets the landscape. In the 1980s, microprocessors made a processing decade that culminated in personal computers. In the 1990s it was the laser that made for communication bandwidth and an access decade culminating in the World Wide Web. In the 2000s cheap sensors are making an interaction decade culminating in a robot takeoff. The Web will soon be made largely of machines communicating with each other.
Rule: Cherish failure . Preferably other people's. We fail our way into the future. Silicon Valley is brilliant at this. Since new technologies take 20 years to have an overnight success, for an easy win look for a field that has been failing for 20 years and build on that.
Rule: Be indifferent . Don't confuse the desired with the likely. Christian end-time enthusiasts have been wrong for 2,000 years.
Rule: Assume you are wrong . And forecast often.
Rule: Embrace uncertainty .
Saffo ended with a photo he took of a jar by the cash register in a coffee shop in San Francisco. The handwritten note on the jar read, “If you fear change, leave it in here.”
(originating in fashion and textile design)
Lidewij Edelkoort is one of the world’s most renowned trend forecasters. From her creation of innovative trend books and audiovisuals since the 1980s to lifestyle analysis and research conducted for the world’s leading brands today, Lidewij has pioneered trend forecasting as a profession.
Helping our clients to adopt “the right approach” in maintaining an up-to-date presence. Enabling our clients to stay ahead of the curve as we anticipate emerging trends. Detecting and interpreting trends, sociocultural movements that define new creative directions, new lifestyles and customer expectations. Creating synergy between marketing and design in order to propose strategic tools to our clients.
Stylesight is one of the leading content and technology solutions for professionals in the style, fashion and design sectors. We deliver global information and a visionary online workspace designed to help you anticipate and analyze an ever-changing marketplace.
Fashion forecasting is a global career that focuses on upcoming trends. A fashion forecaster predicts the colors, fabrics and styles that will be presented on the runway and in the stores for the upcoming seasons. The concept applies to not one, but all levels of the fashion industry including haute couture, ready-to-wear, mass market, and street wear. Trend forecasting is an overall process that focuses on other industries such as automobiles, medicine, food and beverages, literature, and home furnishings.
Online resources, indexes, books etc: http://libraries.uc.edu/libraries/daap/resources/researchguides/design/forecasting.html Practical Foresight Guide, one of many guides to working with futures and foresight