Long Range Thinking

April 25, 2018

When researching long-range trends, or more accurately spotting long range trends, you should seek out sources that (a) are thinking about the future and (b) have had some reasonable success in identifying such trends.

I recently came across one. Published in 1997, it correctly predicted a surprising number of developments. Here is just a partial list:

  • Development of smart clothes and spam filters.
  • Stagnation in middle income salaries due to the Internet producing more candidates competing for jobs.
  • The use of complex comparisons in advertising to prevent, or at least slow, price competition among providers of virtually identical products\services, such as phone, financial, and insurance service
  • Marketers use of the Internet and your computer to track your interests and activities so that their marketing can be ultra-focused.
  • People giving up privacy for more security to the point that there will be cameras virtually everywhere.
  • The corollary that “everyone will be a news reporter”.

Of course, this sage was also wrong, for example, in predicting that “airline travel will be just as uncomfortable as it is today [1997].” As we all know, it is WAY MORE uncomfortable.

What is the source of such profound insight? Was it a futurist, global consulting group, a recently declassified CIA study, or 1997 translation of Nostradamus? No.

Ready? It was Scott Adams, best-selling cartoonist[1].

You should not be surprised as humorists as rule are a very savvy, observant group. It was said of long-time Tonight Show host Johnny Carson that you knew which politicians were in trouble just by listening to his opening monologue.

So, when you are seeking help in figuring out long term trends, never prematurely narrow your search – err on the side of broadening it.

[1] The Dilbert Future – Thriving on Stupidity in the 21st Century, HarperCollins, New York, 1997, pp. 31, 48, 132, 160, 171, 198, 202, and 221.

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