Predictions and Things That Go Bump In the Night
I attended the annual Top Tech Trends event last week, put on by the Churchill Club. The panel included some of the top VCs from ’round here as well as Aneesh Chopra, the CTO of The United States. This year they had a team from SRI–a group of smart people, if there ever was one–put together 10 trends they see becoming large in the next three years, and Curt Carlson (SRI’s CEO) read them and got reactions from both the panelists and the audience.
What surprised me most was how most of the audience and panel disagreed with most of the identified trends most of the time. Yet, these 10 trends were put together by smart people in the center of it all.
It makes me wonder why do we try so hard to do this? What is 0ur fascination with predicting the future, especially when it comes to technology? After all, history shows us that mostly, we’re wrong. Who could have predicted the sheer mass of Google in 1990? Or Facebook in 2000? Or any other number of companies that have thrived, failed, or crashed and burned years before they did so?
Even though history shows us to be very poor prognosticators, we continue to try–and try hard.
Well, there’s the obvious answers; getting ahead of other supporters and investors in these trends can vastly improve our reputations as well as our wealth. But that’s too easy–of course everyone wants that. But my sense is that there is something more here, something more basic to humanity.
And, what I’ve come to, after some thought and research, is that the future is inherently unknown and unknowable, and that is scary. It frightens the old, reptilian, part of our brains, so we make predictions as a security blanket. Something to hold on to, to give us some sense of surety, and to help keep at bay the things that go bump in the night.
So, in the end, the accuracy of our prediction may be much less important than that calming effect. Because, I don’t know about you, but I sure want something that helps me deal confidently with the monsters that we’re all sure are out there in our crazy, accelerated, and rapidly shifting world.