Tag Archives: Predicting the future

Seeing the Bigger Picture: ‘STEEPLED’ and ‘The Great Curtain’

Futurology is a difficult and inexact science, with a poor history of getting it right.  However, there are ways of giving yourself a chance or, at least, avoiding some of the more obvious mistakes and oversights.  This post looks at a tool for considering the bigger picture in futurology and reflects on the results of using it with various user groups.

We’ve made the point before that technologists aren’t necessarily (or solely) the best people to ask what the future may hold because:

  1. they only tend to think about technology, or
  2. when they think about things other than technology, they’re not very good at it.

Of course, there’s probably a parallel observation to be made about any focused specialist in a particular field (economists, lawyers, politicians, etc.) but the observation doesn’t invalidate 1 and 2: it just shares the blame around a bit.  So, what can be done to help, and where does it take us?

Continue reading


The Problem with ‘Futurology’

What’s your favourite terrible technological prediction?  There are plenty to choose from, that’s for sure.  The following is just a brief list of the most infamous computing-based futurology howlers (oldest to newest):

  1. “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers”, Thomas Watson: IBM chairman (1943) (* or was it someone else?)
  2. Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons”, Popular Mechanics (1949)
  3. “I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won’t last out the year”, Prentice Hall: Business Books Editor (1957)
  4. “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home”, Ken Olsen: DEC founder (1977)
  5. “640K ought to be enough for anybody”, Bill Gates (1981) (* or did he really?)
  6. “We will never make a 32-bit operating system”, Bill Gates (1989)
  7. “Spam will be a thing of the past in two years’ time”, Bill Gates (2004)
  8. “Next Christmas the iPod will be dead, finished, gone, kaput”, Alan Sugar (2005)

Continue reading