The best example of futurism which shows how foolish we get with timelines of progress and what sorts of products we will get in the process would be Back to the Future 2. For those of you who do not know about it, Google it; that movie series is classic and no matter how old it may feel to you, check it out. The most obvious example of wide eyed futurism in there is the hoverboard- a flying skateboard with no wheels at all. Looks cool in the movie. However, how on earth would we solve the engine, the power source, the steering and so much more, and then pack it into something that is as thin as a skateboard?! I mean seriously! Some of you may tell me to chill because it is science fiction. Well, if you cannot even begin to explain the science behind it, then it is just fiction! Oh, and this was supposed to be year 2015. Also, add to that flying cars. Elon Musk said it best. Imagine car crashes in the sky with debris raining down on us, or drinking and flying... it would be chaos. Also, it is not something that would be scientifically feasible on a large scale any time soon.
But hey, let us not stop at old examples- there are many new ones. For the last few years, we have been hearing so much about AI, algorithms, super computers, data mining and analytics and all other related technologies and solutions. All of this was supposed to part revolutionize jobs and the way we live, and part make many of our jobs obsolete. I read articles where many managers and directors of companies could not even explain AI, algorithms and data mining, but they were quick to parrot that this stuff was the future. So, what happens now that we need all of this stuff to help us figure out coronavirus or how long we should do quarantine and social distancing? They keep saying they do not have enough data. Still, the way technocrats were touting this stuff, you would think it had precog abilities and it could generate a corona cure in a day or something. As it turns out, the technology is not there and when push really comes to shove, we have to go into quarantine which was invented over 600 years ago. Another example is saying that Amazon is basically about to destroy brick and mortar stores, independent online stores, and grocery stores too! Buy Amazon stock, they say. Well, this is not the case. There are often complaints and walkouts by Amazon warehouse staff as they demand more humane working conditions and pay; this makes Amazon unstable and I am glad there are other stores. Then, in this coronavirus situation, some of the things I am used to getting with Amazon Prime in one day is delayed by a month! They lost tons of sales from me because I had to go to independent online stores to get what I need. Finally, I will never order groceries from Amazon. I cook and so does my family, and Amazon may be many years away from fulfilling our needs, as well as needs of most people who regularly cook at home and eat food from many different cuisines around the world. The biggest problem is meat and salad mixes. I need both to be fresh and last for up to a week in the fridge so I always need to hand pick those specific groceries. This is not possible with companies like Amazon, you are basically down to pure luck with them if this is what you need. Next, we have people being so wide eyed and believing that the age of oil is done, we will go all electric or something with the cars and trucks etc. This is so, so wrong. People who are waiting for oil to become far less relevant than it is today, especially on a global level, will go old, grey and possibly die before this happens. We cannot ignore how important oil still is to our everyday life, as well as our efforts to create alternative energy sources. If you had to guess, do you think that the scientists who will come up with functional nuclear fusion, or affordable air cleaning factories, will be going to work every day driving Teslas they cannot afford, or used affordable gasoline cars?! There is only one sensible answer to this one. Or, maybe they are toddlers now and their middle class parents are driving them to daycare in a gasoline powered car. Oil and its derivatives will eventually give birth to a new technology that will usher in a golden age of humanity, but do not hold your breath. The past mistakes of futurism tell us this will still take a long time, so we should hold back our optimism bias and then some.
Now, you may ask me why all of this matters right now. It matters a lot because many good human lives with tons of potential get destroyed by optimism bias and futurism every single day, now more than ever because of venture capitalism and frivolous start-ups. Take coronavirus. We are using a 600 plus years old approach to fighting it, we know so little about it, safe vaccines typically take a year or more to develop, and we have certain countries holding back the virus data for their own gain, thus making any infection, spread and death rate models very vague and useless. Yet, we are talking about it as if it will finish soon and things will magically go back to normal. This is simply not the case. Once you suspend blind optimism, you know the following. The quarantine and social distancing will last a while, the end of it will be done in stages and take a while longer, people will be paranoid even longer than that, and many business will never open up again. People who are wide eyed, too full of hope to the point they are unrealistic, essentially suffer from a certain vulnerability. They attach themselves to companies, people and causes who promise a bright future and soon, and then they spend their entire lives waiting for grand promises to be fulfilled. The sad truth is, they rarely get fulfilled. There are always exceptions, but I am not sure most people are willing to play that lottery.
Bottom line, my advice is this. Look for real results, evaluate if they exist and whether they are good enough for you, and live your life based on that. Some degree of this is sure to help anyone out there who wants to have a good life. :)