Foresight in Hindsight is a collective history of the future. It is a database of ideas, methods, actions and visions from the past which are in some way predictions. In beginning this project, it was necessary first to question the definition of "prediction". According to the Oxford Dictionary, 'to predict' is "say or estimate that (a specified thing) will happen in the future or will be a consequence of something". For the purpose of our database, however, this definition is not fully sufficient.
We argue that to predict is to envision a future, which can take many forms. Indirect predictions such as those interpreted from scientific research, works of literature, cultural movements, or politically-motivated actions not only predict the future, but also respond to it. This contributes to a complexity and richness that is perhaps only understood in retrospect. A project which proposes a solution to a problem is a form of prediction. A vision of an alternative reality, even one that could never possibly exist, represents a way of thinking about the future. A protest event or countercultural movement, in its rejection of a perceived future, demonstrates critical foresight.
In collecting and interpreting predictions, we are studying 'foresight in hindsight' in order to gain a broad understanding of how the future is foretold, whether correctly or incorrectly. We are interested to understand how predictions which came true were made and why those that were disproved failed. We are retelling history through a collection of snapshots of its future.
2. What are the forms of our predictions?
The forms of our predictions include but are not limited to: visionary statements, literature, films, speeches, science fiction, visual projects, pictures, news articles, postcards, advertisements, illustrations, poetry, interviews, opinions, manifestos, conceptual projects, utopias, dystopias, historical events, protests, revolutions, forecasts, architecture, master plans, philosophy, futurology, countercultural movements and music.
3. How do we find these predictions?
We started by searching the internet, which quickly demonstrated how unique our database could be. General search engines are of limited use as analytical resources, and most websites about predicting the future are too specific to a topic or field. We also began to find predictions by reading a book or watching a film -- sometimes intentionally looking for them, sometimes stumbling across them unexpectedly. We read scientific reports, interview experts, and survey historical events. We gather religious testaments, economic forecasts, and doomsday warnings, from the beginning of time through present day predictions for the future.
We are collecting all types of predictions from the most clear to the less obvious, which are sometimes vague and often quite subjective. They can be as simple as a prophetic statement to as complex as an entire scientific research. A detail from a science fiction story or the slogan of a mass protest. Finding predictions like these requires an understanding of not only the specific idea, but its historical context. From this, we can begin to understand the broader relationship between seemingly isolated predictions, and contribute to a new understanding of both the past and the future.
4. What is the significance of the database?
In building the database, we are creating a library of predictions as an invaluable resource for our own research as well as a interesting tool for any user in the future. We are attempting to 'curate chance' by providing a broad range of results from the most obvious to the most obscure predictions related to any topic searched. This allows for the opportunity to find patterns across subjects, fields and time periods - to map human intution, innovation and imagination. As we have defined them, predictions do not share consistent structures and may not have an obvious storyline behind them. Therefore our data is highly subjective. Some predictions are presented verbatim and some are rethought and reinterpreted in the process of filling out its entry into the database. To give consistency, we present each prediction in the same objective format of statistics about the time, author, field, subject, and outcome. The diversity of the information presented is the greatest strength of the database, making the overall value greater than the sum of the individual data.