Many of us are feeling helpless these days as the world changes around us. However, I believe that we can predict what is coming reasonably well if we develop a future-oriented mindset. To do that, we can learn from the great science fiction and fantasy writer, H. G. Wells (1866 – 1946). His keen observations of scientific phenomena, combined with logic and math, allowed him to predict a number of trends and developments over the course of the 20th century.
Wells was considered to have an overall accuracy of as much as 80 percent, His predictions covered a wide range of subjects, such as urban living, transportation, government, defense methods, education and sociology. He attributed his own success to the following methodologies:
- INDUCTIVE REASONING — Wells taught that inductive reasoning — the process of making inferences by observed repetitive patterns — was key to making reasonably accurate predictions.
- FUTURE-FOCUSED THINKING — Wells did not live in the past. Instead, he thought constantly of things to come, and he believed that change could not be ignored.He also thought of the present in terms of how it could drive the future.
- GROUNDING IN SCIENCE — Wells kept himself knowledgeable of scientific principles and developments, as he believed that science was predictive by nature. For example, he predicted that aircraft would be heavier than air, rather than lighter than air, when his contemporaries believed in the future of balloons and dirigibles. His reasoning was that, to conquer the air, an air craft would need to be stronger than air.
- KNOWLEDGE OF THE PAST — Wells believed that all future events were preordained by past events, so it was important to know the past in order to know the future.
- LAW OF LARGE NUMBERS — Wells used statistical probability to make predictions. He believed that while small, incremental human events may influence outcomes in some way, broad trends can tell the story more accurately, smoothing out the effects of anomalous events. Another way of saying this is that Wells looked at the big picture.
Wells was so accurate that he published a book in 1901 titled Anticipations, in which he predicted what the world would be like in the year 2000. He wrote that trains and cars would move workers between the cities and the suburbs, that women would seek and achieve greater sexual freedom, that there would be two world wars in which German militarism would be defeated, and that a European Union would be formed.
In an era when we feel buffeted by change, we can still reasonably predict the future by studying trends and making informed inferences. As I often tell my audiences, we don’t need to pay a fortune teller to know the future. We only need to pay attention.