Is social order a prerequisite for prediction?

Returning to a blog which has been lying fallow – as this one has for much of this year – is quite nice. Unlike a neglected house, say, there are no odd smells, no accumulation of dust. Everything is pristine, just as it was left.

Does that prompt any future thoughts? Maybe that the web is a strange space. Even things which are old, wrong or out of date can look shiny and new. No doubt design fashions will date the look of many pages, and there are probably forms of digital deterioration I don’t know about, and which are scary to contemplate. But it is oddly timeless – more so than a book, I think – even when a page is date stamped. I suppose film has that quality, too, but old movies combine a disorienting sensation of going back in time with the immediacy of the visual and audio experience. It all makes me wonder how we will regard, and curate, old web pages…

Meanwhile, this blog is going to more regular again, in the run up to publication of the Rough Guide – on Nov 1 – and beyond. So it doesn’t relate to a book in progress any more. It will be more, “things I wish I had known”, comments on bits and pieces in the book, and on others’ futurological musings.

For starters, just a note that there are some thoughts about the impossibility of prediction in that wise man Zygmunt Bauman’s new collection of essays, as summarised in a review in last week’s Times Higher Education. He, and the reviewer, ruminate on the fact that no-one foresaw the collapse of the Berlin Wall, or the banking meltdown. The reviewer, Les Gofton, goes on:

“For Bauman, the ineffability of the future may be an unavoidable feature of the human condition, and the role of experts – like England’s midfield – may always be disappointing and woefully inadequate to the task, but he is a sociologist. As Erving Goffman pointed out many years ago, we routinely predict the future with very high degrees of success when we step into the road, confident that most drivers will not accelerate towards us, or when we invite guests to dinner and they do not steal our silver. Bauman cites Gramsci, who averred that the best way to predict the future was to agree what we wanted, and then cause events to conform as closely as possible to those goals by working together.”

Thought-provoking, that, in its implication that our pondering the future is closely bound up with that foundational sociological conundrum, the problem of order. The further thought that we ought to co-operate to improve the chances of desirable futures coming into being is more commonplace, but still worth making, I’m sure.

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