In a past life, I was involved in some prospective work for a think tank thing called Cinum. A lot of public money and some top notch decision makers were supporting a process that was expected to turn the ever-expanding complexity of our interconnected civilizations into some short « scenarios ». That approach has a lot to do with true science-fiction. Crude facts prove that we have reached a state of development where predictive work is almost impossible to acheive: for example, the airline traffic evolution for 2006 passed the 11% mark when the gross inflation was only gaining 2.9%, despite the price evolution induced by the oil market.
In this specific area, the predictions for 2009 were reached by 2005. As airport design is working on a « 20-year from now » development model, a 4-year difference means more than 20% uncertainity in demand. Of course, airport engineering has to rely on something and the visible flaws of a predictive model are much better than nothing at all. But we could add the the picture the vast expectations regarding the developpment of remote videoconferencing that was expected to reduce drastically the need for air travel among the active working class. A five-fold developpment figure of airline traffic doesn’t fit with the expected evolution. It actually says that the more we communicate the more we need to see each other in person. How could the political action cope with such heavy trends ? Prospecting the future is a lot like archaeology as it demands a light hand, patience and techniques to cope with the unexpected.