Forecasts – Part One

January 29th, 2014

[This column was first published in the Shift Age Newsletter #27]

Eight years ago I first began to write and speak about the future full time.  Then, as always, I was asked about what accurate forecasts I had made.  This told me of course that my legitimacy to some degree would be based upon this.  So I did start to make forecasts.

The second thing I realized was that most people, and certainly people who lead institutions and companies, are interested in what will happen six months to five years out as that is what is their primary focus of leadership.  What might happen in 2030 or 2040, while interesting, is more futurist “locker room talk” than valid and usable forecasts.  In addition the speed of change has accelerated so much and the major variables ahead are so great that to forecast about anything past 2020 is at best educated speculation rather than probable trend forecasting.

I started getting called “the CEOs futurist” years ago because of my focus on six months to five years out [and having spoken to or advised 2,500+ CEOs, owners and C-Level executives over the past six years].  This time frame was evidently exactly what was perceived as of value to those that lead and own companies.

Since we are in a new year and it is a time of every media outlet serving up predictions and forecasts, I thought I should take a look at all the forecasts I have made since starting to do so in 2006 and be accountable.

This is the first of three columns relative to all forecasts made relative to events up to 2014 as they have either been accurate or not.  This is not an exercise in self-congratulation.  It is an opportunity to look back not just on forecast accuracy but to analyze why and why not trends developed, things happened and perhaps what they might suggest going forward.

Almost all of my forecasts about specifics are on the forecast page of my web site

Date of Forecast

April 2006

Forecast

Oil would surpass $125 a barrel in 2008

This one I got right big time and it put me on the map to some degree.  I say that with subdued glee as I took a lot of heat for this, even outright ridicule from some “energy analysts”.  At the time I made this, oil had climbed up to $55-60/barrel.   I fully believed in the Peak Oil theory and saw an inevitable spike and said it would be two years down the road.  Oil reached $147/barrel in 2008.  For some intuitive reason I have been correct with oil price forecasts ever since, saying basically that the price range would be between $90-120.  Looking ahead I see this as the price range for several years to come.

Date of Forecast

June 2006

Forecast

The future of newspapers in the US would be dim.  National newspapers such as USA Today, the WSJ and the NYTimes would survive, as would papers under 50,000 circulation that serve smaller markets.  The major metro papers would decline, collapse and many would go out of business.

This has proven to be largely true.  The big guys have national scale and the small town guys truly serve their local communities.  The middle has collapsed.  This was an easy prediction to make in 2006.  It would have been brilliant had I made it ten years before.

Date of Forecast

February 2007

Forecast

The US election of 2012 would be very significant as those that will want to take the country back would fight and lose to those that want to face the new issues of the 21st century.

Only partially right on this one.  Obviously made before the candidates were even known for 2008, I assumed that 2012 would be the clear turning point for the country.  Due to the small ball election strategies of both Obama and Romney, this didn’t happen.  I was right to the extent that the party that lost this election spent a lot of time saying they wanted to “go back” to what America used to be, particularly in the area of women’s rights and birth control.  This was also the year when the decriminalization of marijuana began in earnest.

Date of Forecast

June 2007

Forecast

There will an explosion of author direct to consumer books sold.  Ebooks will be more than 50% of all books sold by 2020.

This was made before the Kindle was announced, which was the event that largely made this forecast accurate. Though the forecast is for 2020, I think that we are close to 50% (in the US) already.  Having seen disintermediation happening everywhere, my forecast was based on that trend sweeping across all forms of content.

Date of Forecast

August 2007

Forecast

The sub-prime problem would show that the financial marketplace was now global and the problems would become global.

Well this obviously proved to be true.  The problem for me was that when I made this forecast it was too late to sell all of my real estate holdings. Ouch!

Date of Forecast

September 2007

Forecast

Barack Obama would become President on 2008

I remember when I made this in answer to the question after a speech the whole room was clearly dubious. [This was pre-Iowa and any primary] I am not sure why I was so clear on this but sensed upheaval in the first presidential election of the Shift Age, and the then Senator – and fellow Chicagoan- was the outlier of the field at that time.

Date of Forecast

February 2008

Forecast

We now have “smart” phones.  In the years ahead everything will become “smart”: clothing, infrastructure and our homes.  All will be connected.

This is now happening across many segments of society.  We are only at the beginning of living in a smart environment.

Date of Forecast

April 2008

Forecast

Humanity will reach 5 billion cell phone users by early 2011.

At the time of the forecast we just crossed three billion cell phone users after having taken two years to go from two to three billion. The correct assumption was that the speed of cellular connectivity was accelerating Given that one of the three forces of the Shift Age is the Accelerating Connectedness of humanity, I have always studied this number.  There are now close to 7.2 billion humans and 6.1 billion cell phones.  I think this 85% ratio of people to users  will now be relatively constant going forward.

Date of Forecast

July 2008

Forecast

Internet 2.0 equals video.  Video will be the dominant content on the Internet

This seems to becoming true, in large part due to the fact that video is so data rich, more than any other form of content.  So in terms of total data, this forecast, by most estimates I have seen over the last year seems to be at least directionally correct.  A lot of this is due to the simple reality that hundreds of millions of people have hand held devices that are now viewing screens.

Forecasts – Part Two next week

One thought on “Forecasts – Part One

  1. Pingback: Forecasts - Part Two | Evolution Shift - David Houle, Futurist, Disintermediation, Future Trends, Future of Energy

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