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8 Visionaries on How They Spot the Future

Found on Wired’s Epicenter: “Spotting the future is an art. We asked eight of our favorite visionaries for their techniques.

Paul Saffo

A longtime technology forecaster, Saffo is a managing director at the Silicon Valley investment research firm Discern. Formerly the director of the Institute for the Future, he is also a consulting professor in Stanford University’s engineering department.

There are four indicators I look for: contradictions, inversions, oddities, and coincidences. In 2007 stock prices and gold prices were both soaring. Usually you don’t see those prices high at the same time. When you see a contradiction like that, it means more fundamental change is ahead.

The second indicator is an inversion, where you see something that’s out of place. When the Mexican police captured the head of a drug cartel, in the photos the perpetrators were looking proudly at the camera while the cops were wearing ski masks. Usually it’s the reverse. To me that was an indicator that Mexico was very far from winning its war against the cartels.

Then there are oddities. When the Roomba robot vacuum was introduced in 2002, all the engineers I know were very excited, and I don’t recall them owning vacuums. I said, this is damn strange. This is not about cleaning floors, this is about scratching some kind of…read on… and more comments by Esther Dyson, Juan Enriquez, Tim O’Reilly, Vint Cerf, Chris Sacca, Joi Ito, Peter Schwartz.”

March 16th, 2011

Must read: Kevin Kelly on how much Attention is worth

Our attention is the only valuable resource we personally produce without training. It is in short supply and everyone wants some of it. Since its production is severely limited while everything else is becoming abundant, this scarcity is the foundation of the new economy. Yet for being so precious, our attention is relatively inexpensive. It is cheap, in part, because we have to give it away each day. We can’t save it up, or hoard it. We have to surrender it second by second, in real time.

I tallied up the total number of hours devoted by Americans each year to the major media platforms today using data from the Statistical Abstract of the United States. Cable and satellite TV capture the most of our attention, followed by radio, and then by broadcast TV. These three take the majority of our attention, while the others – books, newspapers, magazines, music, home video, games, and the web – consume only slivers of the total pie.

The Technium: Your Attention is Cheap: $2.50/per Hour

Kevin Kelly nails it, once again

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