One of most needed (but still absent) instruments for long-term thinking is a predictions archive. Stewart Brand and I fist conceived of the Long Bets project as a supplementary agency that would work best as part of a great prediction registry. The registry would include any and all predictions about the future. The ideal archive of predictions would include the thousands if not millions of predictions generated each day as a by-product of our ordinary speculations and inadvertent forecasts, not just those designated as a deliberate prediction.
Like everything else it touches, the Wikipedia has the power to make hard things easy. I recently discovered Wikipedia pages for the subject of future years — such as 2020 or 2029 and so on — can serve as a germ of what Fringehog calls a Futurepedia.
As an example there is a fantastic prediction made on the pages of 2010, concerning the pronunciation of the year 2010 and beyond.
According to a recent press release, David Crystal, author of the Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language, has predicted that the change of pronunciation to “twenty X” will occur in 2011, as “twenty eleven”, explaining that the way people pronounce years depends on rhythm, rather than logic. Crystal claims that the rhythm or “flow” of “two thousand (and) ten”, beats that of “twenty ten”, but the flow of “twenty eleven” beats “two thousand (and) eleven”. Alternatively, Ian Brookes, editor-in-chief of Chambers Dictionary, suggests the change will occur in 2013. And finally, the UK Times has suggested 2020 as a final timeframe for the change, saying “If people can have “twenty-twenty” vision, then surely they should also live in the year “twenty twenty.”
Some suggest that after the “twenty X” pronunciation for current and future 21st century years has taken hold, future references to early 21st century years will change accordingly from the previous “two thousand (and) X” method; thus, they say, future generations will refer to the date of the 9/11 attacks in the United States as September 11, “twenty oh-one.”
Wikipedia’s entry for the years 2020 include vernacular predictions for that year such as:
* By mid-decade, Alpine glaciers are likely to contain only half their 1970’s volume.
* NASA expects to land another group of astronauts on the moon.
* Voyager 2 is expected to stop transmitting back to Earth in the 2020s.
* Futurist Ray Kurzweil puts 2029 as the year most likely for the Singularity.
These forecasts can be thought of as the official future — what conventional wisdom expects. Even though no one thinks Ray Kurzweil is conventional, I would argue that anything that persists on Wikipedia can be thought of as conventional wisdom by definition.
If expanded greatly the official future timeline might prove to be a useful document of what we expect.