When I was a kid in the late 1960s, the hovercraft and Concorde were trumpeted as the great British technological innovations – the result, perhaps, of Prime Minister Harold Wilson’s modernising meme about “the white heat of technology“. I even seem to recall, although heaven knows I may have imagined this, a set of British stamps which featured both.
This thought was prompted by a few days spent last weekend in the Isle of Wight over the (English) Bank Holiday. The island often seems, well, quite old-fashioned, and the longest running commercial hovercraft services in the UK plies noisily from Portsmouth to Ryde, across a stretch of water also served by a car ferry and a passenger catamaran.
Concorde, which has been out of service now for more than half a decade, was also as famous, or as controversial, for its noise as its speed. The two technologies raise interesting questions aboout how, and when, particular ideas about the future stop being useful.
The question of what happens when recorded music becomes more or less valueless is a subject I have mentioned a couple of times before (Tony Wilson and others here, Bill Drummond here) . This is a short post to note that Brian Eno has offered some views on this in a recent edition of Prospect. The answers: live music becomes more valuable, as do the non-digital parts of the recorded music package. A couple of brief extracts below the fold.
A post to mention a useful review by Will Hutton of a swathe of books on the banking crisis: Philip Augar’s Chasing Alpha; Gillian Tett’s Fool’s Gold; Paul Mason’s Meltdown; and George Soros’ The Crash of 2008 and What It Means. All good writers, all critics of the pre-crash model of finance capital. Between them they unravel the layers of the systemic failure that led to the crash, a combination of greed enabled by increasingly light regulation – with fraud and deception oiling the wheels along the way. Hutton links the collapse to the 1986 ‘Big Bang’ in London and accompanying deregulation in New York: a “story of ideology, greed, and lack of restraint sanctioned by our politicians”.
It’s 30 years since Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister, and there are still arguments about her legacy (at least in some places: the Conservative Home blog, whose picture I also used, has a post headed, “Margaret Thatcher was the greatest peacetime Prime Minister of modern times but Conservatism can’t fossilise”.)
For me, one chart sums up her legacy. It’s the one which shows a large and lasting change in the levels of inequality in British society, which her successors of either political stripe have done nothing to reverse. The vertical lines show the period of Thatcher’s premiership.
I have an article in the ‘Scenarios Symposium’ published in the latest edition of the Journal of Futures Studies, which has just been published online. The Symposium asks whether scenarios are worth using, and why. The starting point was an article by Graham Molitor – the distinguished futurist who invented the trends ‘S-curve’ – in which he wondered why he’d bothered to use scenarios at all. I argue that the strength of scenarios – when compared to other futures tools – is that they help organisations reduce the ‘variety’ of uncertainty about the future to a point where they can understand it, process it, and respond.