Indian ‘Pundits’ ill-equipped to see the future, let alone predict it

We have no idea what is to happen. How many Indian columnists predicted the recession, the second wave, the Chinese intrusion into Ladakh, the farm laws, the highest unemployment in history, the public’s response to CAA, Demonetisation and three years of declining GDP growth, the failure of GST or the dismembering of Kashmir? None.

Forget that, how many even predicted the landslide election result in West Bengal? We are not even experts in the political field and shouldn’t be taken seriously. To be fair to us, it is not our fault. The near future is hard to predict because it involves human agency. The government chooses to do something or not do something and this produces effects. None of us can tell how it will end, including often even the government.

But the longer term is easier to predict because it is not based on human agency but on technology and science. Some things are bound to happen because technology and its rate of improvement is predictable. Computers will get faster, petroleum will finish, manufacturing will require fewer people, robots will get better. All of these things are already happening and will continue to happen. To foresee the future is only to be able to examine the rate of progress.

The climate will change because science tells us that it is changing. Inequality will increase because companies are getting larger. Foreign influence will increase in politics and economies of countries like India because they are technologically dependent. Warfare will become less violent but more decisive because military power is linked to technological power.

The question is what all of this will ultimately mean for us. For centuries, this sort of thing did not matter because progress was slow compared to today. For a period in the 19th century, when electricity and mechanised locomotion were discovered and invented, the change was dramatic. The first man flew in December 1903, on a plane that could go a few metres. Within 66 years, one lifetime, Americans put men on the moon. That is change of a pace not seen before, but change has accelerated since then, because of increasing power in computing.

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