Time > Future
by Greg Evans
January 19, 2014
17 May 2009
Omaha World Herald
18 August 2011
vision of the future
The Future Of Cities? 2020
imagine a brighter future
USA > Imagining the future:
early 20th century US patents -
in pictures UK
from the turn of the last century
show how aspiring inventors predicted
that humans would fly.
The imaginative designs,
from the US Patent and Trademark office,
between 1871 and 1933,
show elaborate blueprints
for everything from human wings,
an oscillating bathtub,
to a harness support
for a greyhound-riding monkey
1964 New York World's Fair
a vision of the future / what the future looked like in 1964
the home of tomorrow / the home of the future
dystopian future USA
in the future
foreseeable future USA
in the near future > robotics UK
in the runup to
on the verge of N
Out of this World
Sci-fi is so much a part
of the pop culture landscape
that it's easy to forget
how our vision of the future was formed.
A new exhibition
brings together some otherworldly materials
from the British Library archive to show you.
How the world of 1950 looked in 1925: infographic
Airships above you,
cars below ground;
clean pedestrianised streets,
beautiful elegant high-rise living…
how exotic the far-off year of 1950
must have seemed to readers
of Popular Science Monthly in 1925,
when the infographic below was published.
Rediscovered by the wonderful Retronaut
(Slogan: "the past is a foreign country.
This is your passport")
it probably says more about 1925
than it does about 1950.
gird for N
brace for N
brace for N
bode ill for N
bode well for N
for the foreseable future
in the future
civilisations of the future
in / for the years to come
in a month's time
in eight years' time
in the coming year
in the coming days
in coming weeks
in coming decades / in the coming decades
forthcoming UK / USA
72 hours to go
the next four years
in the next half hour
as early as this weekend
as soon as this weekend
in as little as ten months
over the next few months
over the course of the next few days
over the next year
be set for N
for the long haul
during the run-up to...
in the run-up to...
in the years ahead
UK / USA
predict the future
the end of the world
five years from now
eager to V
18 August 2011
R: U.S. president Barack Obama
the year ahead
in the years ahead
a bleak winter ahead
ahead of his/her
an election nine
in the next few
Real or Not,
World’s End Is Trouble for Schools
December 20, 2012
The New York Times
By MOTOKO RICH
Predictions of doomsday have come and gone repeatedly without
coming true. But the latest prophecy, tethered to the Mayan calendar and
forecasting that the world will self-destruct on Friday, has prompted many
rumors of violence, with a particular focus on school shootings or bomb threats.
With students and parents already jittery after the shootings in Newtown, Conn.,
last week, rampant posts on Facebook and Twitter have fed the hysteria, and
police departments across the country have been inundated with calls.
Overwhelmed with the task of responding to threats and unconfirmed reports,
districts in Bend, Ore., Stafford County, Va., Wake County, N.C., and Oak Creek,
Wis., have sent out letters to parents trying to tamp down the panic.
In three counties in Michigan, Genesee, Lapeer and Sanilac, administrators were
spending so much time dealing with reports of planned violence that the
superintendents decided to send 80,000 students on their winter holiday break
two days early.
“We hate canceling school more than anything,” said Matt Wandrie, the
superintendent of the Lapeer Community Schools, north of Detroit. “We’re not
doing this because we think there’s an imminent threat to our students. We’re
doing this because we’ve been doing nothing but policing.”
Mr. Wandrie said that students and parents were passing on rumors they had
picked up online — “It was like ‘my niece’s neighbor’s daughter says there’s
going to be gun violence at school on Friday,’ ” he said — and added that
students were overheard in the hallways saying things like “Let’s go out with a
bang on Friday.”
“If you’ve got students who are disenfranchised or unstable or members of a
community who really believe this end of the world stuff,” he said, “whether I
think it’s credible or not, as a fairly logical person and human being, I’m not
going to take that risk.”
Similar rumors prompted about 50 parents to call the police department in Oak
Creek, the town in Wisconsin where a gunman shot and killed six people at a Sikh
temple in August.
Chief John Edwards said his department investigated every call but found that
they seemed to be repeating a version of the same rumor that had gone viral
online. He said that there was “no credible evidence” of a real threat.
On Wednesday morning, Chief Edwards visited Oak Creek High School to talk to
faculty and students over the public address system, advising them that police
officers stationed on campus would practice a “zero tolerance” policy for anyone
making a threat. “So if anyone makes comments about violence, you will be
arrested,” he said. “There will be no warnings.”
Randy Bridges, the superintendent of the Stafford County Public Schools in
Virginia, posted a letter to parents on the district’s Web site telling parents
that the rumors of violence accompanying the end of the world were “reportedly
unfounded and national in scope.”
“I ask that each of you help stop the rumors spreading throughout our community
by refusing to share these rumors with others,” Mr. Bridges wrote. He offered
links to a source on “How to Talk to Kids about the World Ending in 2012 Rumors”
and NASA’s Web site, which promises that Friday “won’t be the end of the world
as we know.”
Officials said that previous prognostications of the end of the world, including
a prediction of what was called the rapture in May 2011, have not generated the
same kind of frenzy in schools.
“I’ve been an officer 19 years, and never have I seen the climate in our area
the way it is right now,” said Sgt. Scott Theede of the Grand Blanc Township
Police Department in Michigan. “I believe students and parents and everybody are
a little bit more on edge as a direct result of what happened last week.”
Contributing to the worry in Grand Blanc was an incident on Wednesday, when a
15-year-old high school student sent a text message to his mother that he had
heard shots at school and was hiding in a closet. After the mother called 911,
the police responded and found that the boy was playing what he called “a joke.”
The police are considering pressing criminal charges against the boy. But Chief
Steven Solomon said that what most surprised him after the police had
investigated the call on Wednesday was that students seemed more occupied with
their cellphones than with their lessons. “Twitter was lit up,” he said, “and
there were so many texts flowing freely among parents, friends and family
members during the school day.”
Real or Not, World’s End Is Trouble for
Irene as Harbinger
of a Change in Climate
The New York Times
By JUSTIN GILLIS
of Hurricane Irene, which could cause more extensive damage along the Eastern
Seaboard than any storm in decades, is reviving an old question: are hurricanes
getting worse because of human-induced climate change?
The short answer from scientists is that they are still trying to figure it out.
But many of them do believe that hurricanes will get more intense as the planet
warms, and they see large hurricanes like Irene as a harbinger.
While the number of the most intense storms has clearly been rising since the
1970s, researchers have come to differing conclusions about whether that
increase can be attributed to human activities.
“On a longer time scale, I think — but not all of my colleagues agree — that the
evidence for a connection between Atlantic hurricanes and global climate change
is fairly compelling,” said Kerry Emanuel, an expert on the issue at the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Among those who disagree is Thomas R. Knutson, a federal researcher at the
government’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, N.J. The rising
trend of recent decades occurred over too short a period to be sure it was not a
consequence of natural variability, he said, and statistics from earlier years
are not reliable enough to draw firm conclusions about any long-term trend in
“Everyone sort of agrees on this short-term trend, but then the agreement starts
to break down when you go back longer-term,” Mr. Knutson said. He argues,
essentially, that Dr. Emanuel’s conclusion is premature, though he adds that
evidence for a human impact on hurricanes could eventually be established.
While scientists from both camps tend to think hurricanes are likely to
intensify, they do not have great confidence in their ability to project the
magnitude of that increase.
One climate-change projection, prepared by Mr. Knutson’s group, is that the
annual number of the most intense storms will double over the course of the 21st
century. But what proportion of those would actually hit land is another murky
issue. Scientists say climate change could alter steering currents or other
traits of the atmosphere that influence hurricane behavior.
Storms are one of nature’s ways of moving heat around, and high temperatures at
the ocean surface tend to feed hurricanes and make them stronger. That appears
to be a prime factor in explaining the power of Hurricane Irene, since
temperatures in the Atlantic are well above their long-term average for this
time of year.
The ocean has been getting warmer for decades, and most climate scientists say
it is because greenhouse gases are trapping extra heat. Rising sea-surface
temperatures are factored into both Mr. Knutson’s and Dr. Emanuel’s analyses,
but they disagree on the effect that warming in remote areas of the tropics will
have on Atlantic hurricanes.
Air temperatures are also rising because of greenhouse gases, scientists say.
That causes land ice to melt, one of several factors leading to a rise in sea
level. That increase, in turn, is making coastlines more vulnerable to damage
from the storm surges that can accompany powerful hurricanes.
Overall damage from hurricanes has skyrocketed in recent decades, but most
experts agree that is mainly due to excessive development along vulnerable
In a statement five years ago, Dr. Emanuel, Mr. Knutson and eight colleagues
called this “the main hurricane problem facing the United States,” and they
pleaded for a reassessment of policies that subsidize coastal development — a
reassessment that has not happened.
“We are optimistic that continued research will eventually resolve much of the
current controversy over the effect of climate change on hurricanes,” they wrote
at the time. “But the more urgent problem of our lemming-like march to the sea
requires immediate and sustained attention.”
Seeing Irene as Harbinger of a Change in Climate,
Why Experts Get the Future
March 25, 2011
The New York Times
By KATHRYN SCHULZ
Why Expert Predictions Are Next to Worthless,
and You Can Do Better
By Dan Gardner
305 pp. Dutton. $26.95.
What does the future hold? To
answer that question, human beings have looked to stars and to dreams; to cards,
dice and the Delphic oracle; to animal entrails, Alan Greenspan, mathematical
models, the palms of our hands. As the number and variety of these soothsaying
techniques suggest, we have a deep, probably intrinsic desire to know the
future. Unfortunately for us, the future is deeply, intrinsically unknowable.
This is the problem Dan Gardner tackles in “Future Babble: Why Expert
Predictions Are Next to Worthless, and You Can Do Better.” Gardner, a Canadian
journalist and author of “The Science of Fear,” takes as his starting point the
work of Philip Tetlock, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Beginning
in the 1980s, Tetlock examined 27,451 forecasts by 284 academics, pundits and
other prognosticators. The study was complex, but the conclusion can be
summarized simply: the experts bombed. Not only were they worse than statistical
models, they could barely eke out a tie with the proverbial dart-throwing
The most generous conclusion Tetlock could draw was that some experts were less
awful than others. Isaiah Berlin once quoted the Greek poet Archilochus to
distinguish between two types of thinkers: “The fox knows many things, but the
hedgehog knows one big thing.” Berlin admired both ways of thinking, but Tetlock
borrowed the metaphor to account for why some experts fared better. The least
accurate forecasters, he found, were hedgehogs: “thinkers who ‘know one big
thing,’ aggressively extend the explanatory reach of that one big thing into new
domains” and “display bristly impatience with those who ‘do not get it,’ ” he
wrote. Better experts “look like foxes: thinkers who know many small things,”
“are skeptical of grand schemes” and are “diffident about their own forecasting
To his credit, Gardner is a fox. His book, though, is somewhat hedgehoggy. It
knows one big thing: that the future cannot be foretold, period, and that those
who try to predict it are deluding themselves and the rest of us. In defense of
that theory, Gardner dips into the science of unpredictability and the
psychology of certainty. And he provides case studies of failed prophets — a
kind of hedgehog highlight reel, in which the environmental scientist Paul
Ehrlich, the historian Arnold Toynbee and the social critic James Howard
Kunstler come in for a particularly hard time.
This schadenfreude-fest can be good fun. Gardner leaves plenty of
prognosticators squirming on history’s thumbtack, like the British journalist H.
N. Norman, who argued, in early 1914, that “there will be no more wars among the
six Great Powers.” And throughout this terrain, Gardner is an able tour guide.
That’s a common analogy in reviews, but I mean it here as literally as a
figurative claim can be. Like the guy who leads 200 people a day around London,
Gardner is knowledgeable about the major attractions, cheerfully
conversational, deliberately inoffensive and fond of jokes pitched at the
How you feel about his book will therefore depend on two things. The first is
how much you like being led around to information, as opposed to getting lost,
finding your bearings and working up a sweat. The second is whether you’ve
already been to this destination. Here Gardner faces a challenge, and not just
because Tetlock’s own book, “Expert Political Judgment,” is outstanding. Many
recent works explore similar ground, so if you’re in Gardner’s target audience,
you’ve most likely encountered much of his material. Are you familiar with
hindsight bias or groupthink? Can you define “cognitive dissonance” or
“heuristic”? Ever heard of Stanley Milgram’s fake electric shock experiments? If
so — well, the future may not be predictable, but this book will be.
Competition is not its own criticism, of course, but Gardner struggles to
distinguish himself. As a writer, he serves up a basically good meal with a
grating of grating. Witness his fondness for overdetermined analogies. A video
about the 2008 housing-market disaster “spread like a California wildfire in an
abandoned housing development.” The 2003 invasion of Iraq “left failed
predictions lying about the landscape like burnt-out tanks.”
More worrisome than the literary lapses are the intellectual ones. First,
Gardner repeatedly fails to distinguish between different kinds of forecasters —
e.g., Ehrlich and the evangelist Hal Lindsey. “Since rational people don’t take
seriously the prognostications of Mysterious Madam Zelda or any psychic, palm
reader, astrologer or preacher who claims to know what lies ahead,” he writes,
“they should be skeptical of expert predictions.”
Undoubtedly we should be skeptical, but not for that reason. Just because a
policy analyst and Madam Zelda both mispredict the future doesn’t make their
predictions equivalent. The analyst’s prediction is moored in theory and
evidence; if all other variables could be controlled, Fact A could cause
Forecast B. (Inflation today could increase unemployment tomorrow.) Of course,
all other variables can’t be controlled, and so the analyst may be wrong.
Religious and occult predictions, however, boast no causal logic whatsoever.
(“You will meet a tall, dark stranger because . . . I see him in my crystal
ball”?) Even when they’re right, they’re wrong.
To ignore this difference is to stray perilously close to anti-intellectualism.
And Gardner, despite his better impulses, drifts that direction in other ways as
well — for instance, by pitting “all the smart people” against “ordinary
Americans.” Wait: Ordinary Americans aren’t smart? Smart people aren’t real
Americans? Such distinctions aren’t just invidious. They also dodge the real
issue, which is that expertise and intelligence are not intellectually or
morally equivalent to charlatanism. Indeed, they often serve us exceptionally
More troubling still, Gardner perpetuates misunderstandings about the human
mind. “We live in the Information Age,” he writes, “but our brains are Stone
Age.” That is, we make mistakes because our minds are eons out of date, a
jumbled mess of “kludges” ill-suited to modern life.
This idea is the Noble Savage of pop neuroscience: a catchy, culturally
convenient notion that is flat wrong. It’s easy to tell Just So stories about
why we are the way we are, but they can’t be proved, and they often collapse
under even mild scrutiny. (So in the Stone Age, when our brains were perfectly
calibrated for our environment, we never made mistakes?)
Gardner, for all his concern about prediction, has no qualms about retrodiction,
even of the distant, unknowable past. He writes enthusiastically about how we
are “hard-wired” for this or that trick — say, to crave certainty. Never mind
that he himself seems quite comfortable with doubt. Even if the brain is in some
sense hard-wired (and given what we know about plasticity, the analogy is
questionable), those wires unfold to millions of miles and possess an estimated
1,000,000,000,000,000 connections. That’s some fuse box. And that’s why
neuroscientists, like the foxes Gardner professes to admire, exercise caution in
their claims about the brain.
What is most frustrating about all this iffy evolutionary psychology is that it
represents Gardner’s only real effort to understand why we obsess about the
future. True, back in the day, we needed to predict whether the rustling in the
bushes was a predator or dinner. But “What happens next?” is a deep and wide
question, one that extends far beyond Paleolithic perils. It is about suspense,
curiosity, tension, desire, death. Gardner touches almost none of that.
I want to like this book, because I share Gardner’s values and am sympathetic to
his project. And clearly, skepticism and intellectual humility need all the
champions they can get. But while “Future Babble” pays appropriate homage to the
mysteries of the future, it gives short shrift to both the science of the human
mind and the richness of the human experience.
Kathryn Schulz is the author
of “Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of
This article has been revised
to reflect the following correction:
Correction: March 25, 2011
An earlier version of this article misstated
Philip Tetlock’s current academic
He is now a professor at the University of Pennsylvania,
not at the
University of California, Berkeley,
where he previously held a position.
Why Experts Get the Future Wrong,
Related > Anglonautes >