Spotting the Future

Wired’s Epicenter blog, which covers the technology business, recently asked eight visionaries about their strategies for looking at and into the future. How do they see what’s on the horizon? What distinguishes important technologies before they become important?

Among those questioned were Long Now board members Esther Dyson, Paul Saffo and Peter Schwartz. The respondents represented fields ranging from futurism to publishing, computer science to venture capitalism. There was, however, a common thread in the commentary: the importance of observation. Look for the unexpected, and look for it everywhere.

“There are four indicators I look for: contradictions, inversions, oddities, and coincidences.” -Paul Saffo

“The first thing I do is go where other people aren’t. […] I love traveling because I love seeing how many different ways there are to do things.” -Esther Dyson

“You look for technologies that are likely to create major inflection points – breaks in a trend, things that are going to accelerate.” -Peter Schwartz

And what might make a particular technology or project likely to succeed? Vint Cerf, co-inventor of TCP/IP, points out that the future needn’t be something to sit back and wait for: “Sometimes spotting the future is really a question of realizing what’s now possible and actually trying it out.”

You can read the complete responses here.

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The Long Now Foundation is a nonprofit established in 01996 to foster long-term thinking. Our work encourages imagination at the timescale of civilization — the next and last 10,000 years — a timespan we call the long now.

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