We are terrible at predicting the future
Muse #154 - even the memory of the past is a blur, at best.
I am going to extract portions of a recent GapingVoid post here to read:
In 1900, the consensus was, Europe was top dog, Europe would rule the world forever.
In 1920, Europe had destroyed itself, and the consensus was, Germany was finished.
In 1940, the consensus was, Germany was top dog, France and Britain were finished.
1960, the consensus was, the US and the USSR were joint top dogs, and this rivalry would remain forever.
In 1980, having gone through Vietnam, Nixon, Carter, the Civil Rights movement, and all that social upheaval, America was done, America was a spent force. It was just a matter of time until the Soviet Union left America behind in the dust.
By 2000, the consensus said, the Soviet Union was over and neoliberal democracy was the only game in town, including with China, at least, eventually.
In 2020, the consensus said, China is going to overtake America, and America will drown under a big wave of COVID and social turmoil.
What does all this tell us?
That consensus is usually wrong. And the bigger the issue, the more likely this is.
In 1920, nobody saw the rise of Germany. In 1960, nobody saw Viet Nam. In 1980, nobody saw the collapse of the Soviet Union. In all these cases, all the things that proved the consensus wrong were all things that were not, nor could not have been, predicted in advance.
The lesson here is, although consensus is a good thing, organizations need it to function, after all – it’s just that the world is far more complex and unpredictable than the consensus normally allows for, so be careful.
So if a broad-based consensus can’t get it right, and we are individually cant get it right as well, what do we do with our individual or collective prediction skills?