Imagine if you had the power to see into the future. What would you do? Cash in on the winning Powerball numbers? Nip that relationship-ending fight in the bud? Avoid California when that huge apocalyptic earthquake goes down? It’s an intriguing thought, and it’s probably why a lot of people (read: suckers) still pay psychics way too much money. But the sad truth is that no one knows for sure what’s going to happen tomorrow, or the next day, or 10 years from now.
And yet, there are people out there who will say they’re a “futurist" when you ask what they do for a living. People who get paid big, big money by major corporations, investors, and governments to forecast what’s going to happen and what society will be like down the road. How does a career like this even exist? And what sort of cajones does it take to think you can do such a thing?
The terms "futurology," "futurism," and "futures studies" have been shorthand for a whole patchwork of disciplines over the years; the profession of "futurist" has, at one time or another, included everyone from sci-fi authors to stock brokers. In the last couple decades, however, it's come to denote a high-level "trend forecaster," or someone who carefully considers data to help big important people and businesses make decisions and lay out strategy.