10 of the World’s Most Groundbreaking Futurists

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Author's Note: 10 of the World’s Most Groundbreaking Futurists

I grew up reading Parade magazine articles about Jeanne Dixon, the clairvoyant, and I was fascinated in college with Nostradamus, the 16th-century French seer who hid his predictions in rhymes to avoid persecution as a witch. (My interest was piqued, perhaps, because British folk rocker Al Stewart did a catchy song that interpreted some of Nostradamus' verses.) But now that I've spent a few decades as a journalist, I've seen enough forecasts and predictions gone awry that I tend to view futurists with measured skepticism. Futurists, I've found, have a challenging time perceiving what lies ahead, because even if they correctly predict some developments, there are enough other unanticipated wild cards and nascent trends that never really blossom, and those things subtly alter the recipe for the future. While John Elfreth Watkins managed to predict the mobile telephone, for example, he had no idea that there would be such a thing as the Internet, or that phones would morph into smartphones -- multi-purpose, multimedia devices that would take the place of cameras, record players and even books. Whether one relies upon experts, media content analysis or wide-ranging data mining, revolutionary developments often are going to come out of nowhere.

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