Eric Garland has a great piece in The Atlantic about quitting his job as a futurist.
I am not quitting this industry for lack of passion.... The problem is, the market for intelligence is now largely about providing information that makes decision makers feel better, rather than bringing true insights about risk and opportunity. Our future is now being planned by people who seem to put their emotional comfort ahead of making decisions based on real -- and often uncomfortable -- information. Perhaps one day, the discipline of real intelligence will return triumphantly to the world's executive suites. Until then, high-priced providers of "strategic intelligence" are only making it harder for their clients -- for all of us -- to adapt by shielding them from painful truths….
So what's gone wrong? The consolidation of industries and increased power of the state means that the future is driven less by market trends or new technologies, and more by the internal politics of big corporations and regulatory agencies. But in addition,
Strategic intelligence is more and more like reading the Harvard Business Review through a fun house mirror. Sure, people use the words strategy, future, and foresight, but they mean something quite different.
In my experiences, and based on what my colleagues in the field tell me, executives today do not do well when their analysts confront them with challenging, though often relatively benign, predictions. Confusion, anger, and psychological transference are common responses to unwelcome analysis….
For too many business and government executives, foresight is a luxury that is hardly necessary in this new "hypercompetitive" post-crisis world. Perhaps it's always been superfluous, we just didn't notice. The study of the future used to be easier to sell, maybe because the analysis usually predicted the growth of the consumer economy or the next great gadget. But the future is no longer nearly as palatable, and the customers are less interested. That's too bad, because companies and governments still need help planning for the future. But it takes discomfort, courage and humility to face that future, and who wants to pay for bad news?
Clearly my book on The Future: What We Can Know, What We'll Never Know, and What We Don't Want to Know, should be next on my agenda.