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In Search of Meaning

This morning at the Interactive Media Conference and Trade Show, the opening keynote address was delivered by Jim Taylor, vice chairman of the Harrison Group. Fast Company last connected with Taylor in 1996, just before his book The 500-Year Delta — co-written with fellow futurist Watts Wacker — was published.

If Taylor’s keynote is any indication, “what comes after what comes next” — at least in the world of business futurism — is in many ways more of the same. In his wide-ranging, 45-minute talk, Taylor trucked out some tried-and-true futurist tricks:

  • He name-dropped obscure authors and thinkers, including Joseph Goebbels, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Aesop.
  • He gave good stat: Between 25,000 BC and 2000 AD, five exobytes of content was produced; the same amount was created in the year 2002 alone.
  • He cited somewhat obscure historic precedents: a Pennsylvania election study in the late ’40s and the New York Times Co. v. Sullivan case in 1964

Otherwise, his presentation was a hodgepodge barrage of repackaged scenarios — and no little energy. Anecdotal attendee feedback was largely positive. For, as Taylor said, “The role of the futurist is not to be accurate but to provoke thinking.” Or… not.

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