Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, Ph.D.

I study people, technology, and the worlds they make

links for 2010-08-16

  • Self-fulfilling predictions and self-defeating (suicidal) predictions-collectively termed reflexive or self-altering prediction-occur whenever the issuance of a social or economic prediction causes alterations in behavior (decisions) that promote or thwart the expected outcome…. [T]here is confusion concerning the effects of self-alteration on accuracy: does it tend to enhance accuracy, as the term “self-fulfilling” would indicate, or does it tend to diminish or destroy accuracy?… The present article first notes an intriguing contrast in the relative emphasis and conclusions on this question found in economics versus the other social disciplines. This contrast, it turns out, is not accidental but related to the self-imposed prediction tasks of different fields. A typology of prediction statements helps explain how self-alteration can be expected to affect accuracy, and this, in turn, explains the aforementioned contrast in emphasis.
  • A formal system based on the sentential calculus is constructed to explore the logical properties of autogenetic (self-fulfilling and self-negating) beliefs…. The analysis proceeds in three stages. The first stage deals with individual autogenetic processes, wherein a single person’s belief system has an effect on the truth or falsehood of what is believed (e.g. the placebo effect). The second stage deals with social processes in which the belief systems of two or more individuals have an autogenetic effect that cannot be produced by any single belief system in isolation (e.g. a run on the banks). The third stage deals with higher-order processes in which a belief about one’s own involvement in an autogenetic processes has itself a further and more complicated autogenetic effect (e.g. faith-healing). Higher-order autogenesis has paradoxical consequences that raise fundamental questions about the nature and scope of empirical knowledge.
  • Many managers are disillusioned by the dismal record of their strategic and financial planners in forecasting even the near future. And trustworthy futurist gurus are getting harder to find. The thoughtful expositions of Herman Kahn (Hudson Institute) and Amelia Peccei (Club of Rome) have been replaced by the pop speculation of Naisbitt. Does futurism have a future? Donald Michael recasts our understanding of what to expect from futurism in this interview with Planning Review’s editor, Robert Allio.
  • This article reflects on over two decades of one individual’s thinking about the future. Of central concern are the epistemological problems raised by futures studies and the role of the values and beliefs of both the producers and consumers (as well as anti-consumers) of futures studies. Increasingly Professor Michael has come to be concerned with the functions futures studies perform rather than the undertaking itself. Futures studies are seen essentially as storytelling-and various methodological injunctions and morals flow from this view.
[To the tune of Víctor Lavallén, “Amanecer Ciudadano,” from the album Tango & Folkore Music of Argentina – Epsa World Music (a 1-star song, imo).]

1 Comment

  1. Futurism does indeed have a future. However, one has to detach the pursuit of logic, method and empiricism from “marketeer futurologists” who spin logic and method into a selling tool. Any output from any study can be spun in any way one wants — using verbal legerdemain — and that is why “many managers are disillusioned by the dismal record of their strategic and financial planners in forecasting even the near future.” They parroted forecasts from mainstream gurus who cashed in on the bubble markets.

    The tragedy is that these strategic managers can claim “experience” and will go on to parrot similar forecasts at other blue chip institutions. Unfortunately, the market continues to drool at the availability of “expertise” whenever the likes of Lehman Brothers collapses

    Futurology is supposed to make one think and plan alternative scenarios.

    Good post!

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