Contrary to popular belief, futurists can’t see into the future–and, should you happen to run into one that claims to have this unique skill, my best advice is to run away as fast as you can because they are flat-out lying.
If a good futurist can’t “see into the future” you might ask, “What do they do?”
That’s a good question. The answer can be found in two simple statements. The first by an acclaimed science fiction writer and the second by a comedian.
William Gibson, the author of Neuromancer, once said: “The future is already here–it’s just not very evenly distributed.” His point being that the trends shaping tomorrow are here today but, often, they are on the edge–or fringe–of society.
This brings us to the comedian Steven Wright who once quipped, “I was a peripheral visionary. I could see the future, but only way off to the side.”
Wright was, of course, trying to be funny, but in reality he was close to identifying what makes a good futurist.
The best futurists are those who can identify trends and technologies that are “way off to the side” today but will move from today’s periphery to tomorrow’s center.
In short, a good futurist kind of looks like the frog in the above picture–he/she is focused ahead but is conditioned to constantly look to the periphery.