Why Narrating the Future May Be Better Than Trying to Predict It

In 1972 the Club of Rome, an international think tank, commissioned four scientists to use computers to model the human future. The result was the infamous Limits to Growth that crashed into world culture like an asteroid from space. Collapse, calamity, and chaos were the media take-aways from the book, even though the authors tried hard to explain they weren’t making predictions but only exploring what would happen if population and economies continued their exponential growth. People, however, wanted predictions even if the book wasn’t really offering them. That gap between the authors’ intentions and the book’s reception tells us something critical about flaws in the way we think about the long-term future. Just as important, it points to new and different ways to think about the future at this strange moment in

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from Nautilus

Nautilus10 min readTech
Would You Survive a Merger with AI?: The cost of brain enhancement may be your identity.
The idea that humans should merge with AI is very much in the air these days. It is offered both as a way for humans to avoid being outmoded by AI in the workplace, and as a path to superintelligence and immortality. For instance, Elon Musk recently
Nautilus6 min read
The Problem with the Frozen Poop Knife Study
When, some weeks ago, I was first contacted by an online scientific publication asking me to review a submission on the subject of “shit knives”, I initially thought it was a hoax or some kind of practical joke. I had in mind the deliberately nonsens
Nautilus9 min read
Consciousness Doesn’t Depend on Language: We share the basic experience of life with all mammals.
The contrast could not have been starker—here was one of the world’s most revered figures, His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, expressing his belief that all life is sentient, while I, as a card-carrying neuroscientist, presented the contemporary