I have been procrastinating over a question asked by the wonderful Meredith Etherington-Smith, which she put to me some time ago.
Why? Because it is a very good question and it really hits the sweet spot right in the middle of this Industry:
Hi – Fascinating idea being a Futurist. What is the difference between predicting the future and predicting trends which are – if predicted far forward enough- predicting the shape and the content of the future?.
The nub of this issue is what is a trend? And what is the future?
My first response, which avoids both of these questions, is a futurist should be able to predict trends before they happen and that is the difference between a trend spotter and a futurist.
To attempt to clarify the first two questions, here is a start for now: Trends are not uniform and the distinction between drivers and outputs is important. Often change will produce outputs which counter the original trend. For example ‘the aging population’ is a longterm demographic driver, but the trend of the ‘new young’ – ‘Age is relative and I am as old as I feel’ – goes directly against this dynamic.
So yes, in a way, the future is a composite of all the trends that are out there, but the linearity of this is not given, it is very dangerous to read from A to B using trends.
I am going to have to leave it there for now because, to be honest, there’s a life’s work in this.
Thanks Meredith, a brilliant question and a fascinating area to talk about.