Unable to predict the future

I’m no longer able to predict the future. I’m not sure when I lost this power exactly but I fear it may have gone forever. I’m not talking about reading tea leaves or staring into a crystal ball – I mean, I can’t do these either, but that’s because they’re both complete bollocks. The skill I’ve lost is much more mundane; I'm suddenly unable to hazard a guess at what the world will look like in 10 years’ time.


It’s not always been this way. Back in the early 90’s I remember looking at a TV and thinking “I bet one day we’ll have TVs so small we’ll be able to carry them in our pockets” and “when I’m older mobile phones might have colour screens”. Come to think of it, I was pretty shit-hot at predicting the future. I even predicted that Jimmy Savile and  Michael Jackson would turn out to be massive peados. Nobody could deny that I had a gift. But this ability is no longer. The world is now changing so rapidly that anything I can think of has either already been invented or is in development.

"That's right, I envy the man who thought up the Wank Pot."

Dan, one of my closest friends, recently told me about a “ground-breaking” idea he’d had – the “Wank Pot”. He went on to describe what was essentially a pot...which a man can wank into to reduce the amount of post masturbation clean-up. This upset me for two reasons. Firstly, I felt ashamed of myself for the low quality of company I’m now keeping. Secondly, and more worryingly, I was saddened to realise that Dan is more of a visionary than I will ever be. That’s right, I envy the man who thought up the Wank Pot.   

Maybe I’m not the only one to have lost this skill though as it seems you can make a lot of money from making the most basic predictions nowadays. Steve Jobs was described as a ‘visionary’ because he simply guessed correctly that people wanted a computer which was halfway between a phone and a PC. He called it the ipad and was instantly declared a genius and rewarded with countless billions of dollars. Seems fair. 

Things have gotten so bad recently that I'm now struggling to accept things that already exist. I still excitedly tell people about things like Zipcar which have been around for years. But to be fair, you can beep the horn and unlock the car doors using your phone. It's mind blowing!

I recently interviewed the artificial intelligence expert Jacob Foerster for the Version 3.0 podcast and he explained how, through machine learning, we may soon have computers which will be self-improving. Once set to work these computers could keep reviewing and tweaking their own code in an exponential feedback loop until finally becoming an infinitely powerful intelligence – essentially a synthetic god. I never predicted that, not even close. But to be fair I asked my friends and none of them had predicted this either. Not even the one who invented the Wank Pot.