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July 08, 2007

Waiting for the Maes-Garreau point

part of the cover of Joel Garreau's Radical Evolution book

On his Technium blog, Kevin Kelly recently discussed an interesting trait of human nature... it seems many of us think things are going to get better just before we die.

Kelly starts out by talking about how often futurists are wrong, how anyone who attempts to predict the future can't help but be influenced by... and blinded by... the present(*).

But then he talks about some fascinating research by MIT's Pattie Maes that shows a much more personal bias. Maes noticed that several of her colleagues were optimistic that one day we'll all be able to upload our minds into computers. And if you can do that, you can live forever. But here's the interesting thing... Maes noticed that when she asked her colleagues when this would all happen, they all tended to give a date that just happened to be right before they could be expected to die of old age. Journalist Joel Garreau has noticed this type of thing happening with other predictions of cool, wonderful, transformative advances that will make all of our lives wonderful... the person making the prediction tends to think that the advance will happen right before they die.

Kelly has named this magic future The Maes-Garreau Point. Read his full essay on his Technium blog.

(*)I've always thought a much better alternative to predicting the future is the type of scenario planning practiced by Stewart Brand and his colleagues at the Global Business Network. Don't try to predict the future, take a look at multiple possible futures, and plan how you'll react to all of them.

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at July 8, 2007 03:16 PM