HEWN, No. 298

"Every historical period has its godword" -- Theodore Roszak

It’s that time once again for folks to publish their predictions for the coming year. I find the practice to be incredibly irritating, in part because so few people are willing to revisit their past predictions and admit that they were wrong. The worst, in my opinion, are those high-profile futurists who keep making the same predictions year-after-year, and no one calls them on their bullshit. It’s been at least five years since Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen started telling everyone that in ten to fifteen years, half of all colleges would be bankrupt. He’s still peddling that same timeline; the collapse of higher education is still ten to fifteen years out.

At the beginning of the year, I made a quick list of some of the things that the tech industry — its analysts and marketers and carnival barkers — said would come to pass in 2018. There were lots of predictions, no surprise, that we’d see self-driving cars and flying taxis, and that the price of bitcoin would skyrocket. There were lots and lots and lots of exuberant predictions about the price of bitcoin (which is, I believe, now trading at near its lowest point this year). Congrats, everyone. You’re very bad at this.

Technologists suck at predicting the future. They suck because they don’t understand the past; they’re blind to much of the present. They’re terrible at predicting the future because they fail to grasp the systems and practices surrounding their products, firm in their faith instead that their own genius (and their investors’ continued support) will be enough to muddle forward.

I can’t bear to look too closely at what industry folks are predicting for 2019. Such is one of the very positive side effects of staying away from social media — I don’t have to. Such is one of the very positive side effects too of writing a book about the past. But I imagine that most folks are pointing to 2020, not 2019, as the really big year for “the future.” 2020 is a nice, even number, and the future, as Christensen’s predictions show us, surely functions in units of five. 2019 is not even prime.

How Much of the Internet Is Fake?” asks Max Read. “Turns Out, a Lot of It, Actually.” It’s all built on lie and after lie after lie after lie. (We don’t call them lies, of course; we call them PR.) These stories are well-funded; the storytellers well-connected. They aren’t interested in our seeing clearly.

This week’s pigeon is a Norwich Cropper. It sure looks like it’s about to tell you to invest in crypto:

(Image credits)

Here’s to a better future…

Yours in struggle,