on 20 October 2008
This is definitely one of my favourite books. The future is more difficult to forecast than ever before, yet quite a lot of people (myself included) have jobs that involve some degree of positioning for the long term. I found Richard Watson's fresh, fun and mischievous approach to future forecasting very compelling and useful in my work.
It's no so much the actual predictions, but the "joined up thinking" that I most enjoyed. Watson has taken observations of the present, used logical extrapolation and then (the bit I like) combined two or more of these threads together to arrive at initially surprising, yet on further contemplation quite reasonable future predictions.
This is certainly a book for people interested in the future, but perhaps also for people who experience concern about the future. I felt as though reading the book allowed me to glimpse a wide range of possible futures and comprehend some of the factors that determine which fork(s) we will chose along the path. In doing so, the future feels less unknown.
Richard Watson runs a web site [...] where you can experience his way of thinking with a lot of free content and also download Chapter one of the book.
on 16 October 2008
Alarm bells started to ring on page two of the introduction, when the author explains that this book is based on an 8,000 word article which a commissioning editor at a publishing company asked if he could "stretch out" to 90,000 words. After that guileless admission, it was hardly a surprise that the book felt so waffly and padded.
What did surprise me is that there appears to have been no attempt to impose retrospective order on ideas chucked down in whatever sequence they popped into the author's head ("Actually, mentioning religion brings me to another thought: perhaps science will be the new religion"). It reads like a stream-of-consciousness first draft.
So we have the author contradicting himself in the space of a single paragraph: he notes that working longer hours is not making us happier, then argues that we introspect more about happiness because we have more time on our hands. And we have sloppy non-sequiturs: "if a generation has fewer offspring, its genetic legacy is reduced. This means that the beliefs to which a generation adheres weaken over time." Beliefs are transmitted genetically?
If you want a scattergun collection of ideas about the future and don't mind an inane and shallow writing style, this is fine. If you're hoping for a level of analysis that rises above "personally I think that AI in any meaningful sense is a long way off. Having said that, can you imagine the implications if an internet of the future did actually become aware of its own existence? Ohmygawd", don't waste your money.
on 20 October 2008
I went to the launch of this book at the RSA (if you want to see the author in action, go to ...).
I was so impressed I bought the book (but stopped short at the company)
If you want dry academic rigour, look elsewhere. If you want a highly readable and provocative scan into the future, full of nuggets to drop casually into dinner party conversation your money will be well-spent.
I am here to buy a copy to replace the one I purchased at the launch, that has mysteriously gone missing. If it doesn't return I would put that down as a further endorsement.
on 3 April 2012
This book is a good collection of ideas that have been gathered from various newspaper articles, blogs or similar content sources. It painfully lacks a structure or a cohesive storyline and is presented as a collection of ideas/trends. There is no scientific approach to anything included in the book, other than a detailed referencing of most material in its website (I didn't actually check this but it was mentioned in the book).
If you're a complete outsider to latest trends then what is presented here might be a good 101 to hear about the major buzzwords. Other than that, especially if you are even a little bit "in the know", this might end up being a waste of time.
on 29 July 2011
Plenty of creative ideas. Not many hard facts and stats.
Could be interesting for someone that likes to day dream about what the future will bring.
This is not a book that will help you prepare your business for the next 5years.
Also, unless you have a very good grasp of global trends and current figures, this book can easily throw you off course.
A fair test of any futurologist is whether they can actually predict future events. One of the many things that make me warm to Richard Watson is that he wrote Future Files in 2008, just before the Credit Crunch hit the world. Watson had the advantage of having already witnessed the beginnings of the US subprime 'mortgage fiasco' but predicts further US loan defaults and a possible `second subprime tsunami'. He makes constant references to the likelihood of a global economic crash. This man has earned his soothsayer badge.
Watson's crystal ball scans a wide range of future possibilities. Global warming? No big deal: mankind as a whole will cope with anything that the climate throws at us, as we have for the past many millennia. Over-population? Probably no big deal - as economies develop, so populations will both shrink and age, giving us a whole new set of headaches.
Things to worry about? The end of privacy and the end of ugliness; the end of getting lost; the end of lunch, desktop computers, the Aral Sea, petrol engines and telephone directories.
Things to keep you awake at night? GRIN technologies: the inevitable coming together of Genetics, Robotics, Internet and Nanotechnology to create heaven knows what unimaginable (and perhaps uncontrollable) new technologies that will change all of our lives.
Watson's book is an absolute riot. It's fun to read, and it raises a number of serious practical and ethical issues, not only about future lifestyles but also about the future of business and politics.
The book may be less than rigorous in parts, but this is futurology, not analysis. A must read. Stimulating ideas don't normally come in such an entertaining package.
on 23 October 2008
I found this book entertaining, amusing, and also thought-provoking. It's a fast-paced "stream of consciousness" ride through a whole spectrum of facts, trends, quotations, ideas and forecasts, from society and government through to science, technology, food, retail and travel (and more besides).
Future Files provides a snapshot of where we are as a planet today coupled with extrapolations, thoughts and insights to get the creative juices flowing. I found that the book sparked a lot of fresh ideas on both a business and a personal level, and engendered a certain amount of perspective and clarity on many topics and trends.
The book contains hundreds of facts, ideas and connections, yet its style is engaging and easy to follow, making it hard to put down. Well worth reading if you're at all involved in business decision-making, or if you simply fancy an entertaining, eye-opening look at both our present and our possible future!
on 20 May 2010
Since the moment it arrived, not only did I have difficulty putting it down, I had difficulty not discussing a number of the points raised in the book with pretty much anyone I met.
The opening chapter pretty much agreed with my original assessment - here was a guy who was interested in articles that described future trends, and decided to make a reasonably light hearted living from it.
The difference between this book and other futurology books and documentaries is that it only brushes on technology. It's not written by a technologist. This means that Watson often refers to social impact and psychological effects of future events.
For instance, it's hard to deny that we're all obsessed with covering our work surfaces, home surfaces, and even our hands, with antibacterial spray. However it's the generation before us, who never used the spray that are living the longest, and more children are being born with allergies. I've digressed. Watson predicts that in the future we all have defibrillators in the home, blood test machines that send the digital samples via the Internet to a doctor the other side of the World (which we'll use daily), and so on... we will become more and more paranoid in the future.
In a nutshell, if you want to read a book that predicts flying cars, interplanetary transport, Warp speed motorbikes or Internet links implanted in our brains, don't buy this book. If you want a glimpse into the kinds of things that may affect our children and their children in the future, it's definitely worth a read.
on 26 July 2010
In this bold, entertaining book, futurist Richard Watson reports the results of decades of thought about the future. He identifies more than 200 separate trends, which he helpfully winnows down into five overarching themes illustrated with real-world and hypothetical examples. His breezy style weaves these themes into the major areas of life: work, finances, politics, science, health care and entertainment, among others. Watson's vision of the future covers all aspects - literally everything from taking baths to artificial intelligence - and the sweep of his ambition is impressive. He augments his text with good graphics, some perhaps tongue-in-cheek (his "Extinction Timeline" has Belgium biting the bullet around 2049). The book's one weakness is that, while Watson tells readers what will happen in the future, he doesn't always explain why. This caveat aside, getAbstract recommends this engaging book to leaders, innovators and all those interested in the future.
on 22 March 2010
I really enjoyed reading this book. I enjoyed it for several reasons
1) Clear, well defined chapters. The danger with this sort of "big picture" book is that it rambles. Although this one is a bit heavy in places, it generally focuses well on each subject
2) Light and easy reading despite the weighty topics. I enjoyed the British sense of humor and it helps that many of the chapters are full of every-day examples and related points
3)An awareness of the past helping the author describe his vision of the future. The extrapolations never felt forced,always grounded in good sense and therefore ultimately very believable.
There was only one point that frustrated me with this book, and ultimately it is common to similar kinds of book, namely that as soon as it is written it is in part out of date. Some of the updates needed updating already.
Thankfully the website that the author runs can provide an "ongoing" dialog and vision.