If you can’t predict the future, what then?

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This is the fiftieth anniversary of the 1964 New York World’s Fair. What I loved most about it were the pavilions that offered views of the future. Most of those predictions turned out to be wrong.

We humans are not very good at predicting the future. Sometimes we leave things out. Many early Twentieth Century predictions of the year 2000 got the skyscrapers right, but left out the elevators. More often we get the “what” right, but the “when” wrong. It almost always takes longer than we think for a new product to be adopted.

So when you read a piece like Nick Bilton’s “Americans Predict a Future Like Science Fiction” in the New York Times, you can be most certain about one thing. A decade or more down the road, many of those predictions will show up in books like The Wonderful Future that Never Was: Flying Cars, Mail Delivery by Parachute, and Other Predictions from the Past.

So what can you do? You can start by learning to learn more quickly so you can adapt to the changes you can’t predict. Harold Jarche’s blog is a great starting point. Poke around a little, because it’s a rich source of tools, techniques, and provocations.

Pay attention to things that don’t change. They’re the most important things. They’re the human things.

Fads come and go. Technology changes rapidly. But human beings haven’t changed much in millennia. If you want them to do something, make it attractive, easy, and safe. If you want to send them a message, learn their language.

We may not be able to guess what the future holds, but we can be sure of one thing. Human beings will be the most important part of it.

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