26 November, 2017

If this goes on

It's relatively easy to anticipate first-order effects.  It's harder to anticipate second-order effects.  It's harder still to anticipate the interactions of second-order effects (and so on).  Maybe we'll eventually have an improved Watson to use as a tool to guess where we are going, but I doubt it.  The act of guessing, and acting on those guesses, changes the system.  That's why speculative fiction, especially dystopian literature, is useful: it helps one to anticipate and avoid some of the bad possibilities.  But even that, by insisting on a minimal "realism" will fail to catch black swans.  And if it does, nobody will believe them until the very last moment.

In that light, take a look at some speculations from the head of Daimler-Benz.  In his limited area, I think he's getting some of the first-order effects, and maybe a few of the second-order effects.  But assuming it doesn't all fall apart (always a not trivial assumption) we can figure he's missing ninety percent of what's going to happen.  And he fails to consider the political and social pushback.  So a few good rules for thinking about the future:
  1. The next year isn't going to change as much as you hope it will.
  2. The next five years isn't going to change as much as you think it will.
  3. The next twenty years will change more than you can imagine.

P.S. If anyone has the original source, I'd like to see it.

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