According to Nautilus' Tom Vanderbilt, humans are not very good at predicting the future. While the self-driving car was already envisioned in the 50s, the 60s predicted the fax, but not that women would be working in an office. The issue, it seems, is that much of what we can do now, could already be done before with "less efficient" technologies. As the article points out, Amazon's use of drones for same day deliveries already takes place thanks to a 19th century piece of technology called the bicycle.
In one experimental example, people were asked how much they would pay to see their favorite band now perform in 10 years; others were asked how much they would pay now to see their favorite band from 10 years ago. “Participants,” the authors reported, “substantially overpaid for a future opportunity to indulge a current preference.” They called it the “end of history illusion”; people believed they had reached some “watershed moment” in which they had become their authentic self.2 Francis Fukuyama’s 1989 essay, “The End of History?” made a similar argument for Western liberal democracy as a kind of endpoint of societal evolution.
This over- and under-predicting is embedded into how we conceive of the future. “Futurology is almost always wrong,” the historian Judith Flanders suggested to me, “because it rarely takes into account behavioral changes.” And, she says, we look at the wrong things: “Transport to work, rather than the shape of work; technology itself, rather than how our behavior is changed by the very changes that technology brings.” It turns out that predicting who we will be is harder than predicting what we will be able to do.
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