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Mankind has always wanted to conjure up the future, yet its mysterious alchemy evades our grasp.

Beyond the Edge - photo copyright 2011 by Wilson Wyatt Jr

Writers are no different…secretly wanting to predict the next big story trend.  A year or two in advance would be great…just enough time to write that next best seller.  Well, there may be some clues.

We mark our existence within time.  Nothing can send time back, except memories…or our imagination.  Within the space that time affords us, there is only so much room for life at the moment.  This is an important realization for those who want to know more about the future.

Years ago, a futurist friend of mine, John Naisbitt, taught me a unique perspective about viewing time and space as a way to evaluate major trends that shape our future.  The techniques are not new.  They were used successfully by our intelligence services.  In later years they became helpful in designing communications and marketing programs.  Like in so many ventures, the genius comes in the interpretations, like from a perceptive artist…or a trend-setting author.

My friend studied current social events of various countries (and states) to predict future trends, with amazing clarity. The essence of his thoughts was derived from studying local stories in local newspapers. There is only room for so many stories, so many inches on the page…only so much “time” for stories in a broadcast. He categorized, tabulated and analyzed the results. Over a period, major themes and issues became clear…to the gifted interpreter.  Conclusion: we can get an accurate glimpse of what is of growing importance to people, at a local level, and what isn’t.  By combining the local events across a whole nation, we can get a pretty good understanding of what important trends are rising on the horizon, to last for years to come.

I should point out that national news was excluded in this work.  It skewed the results, often in false directions.  It’s the smaller, local events that combine to shape major trends. Local events are closest to our daily lives.

We can now measure time byte by byte.  Regardless, there is only so much space in time for things to happen…to be reported…to be important to us…to be understood by others. Our attention spans may be shorter, but time and space are unchanged.

Smaller issues come and go, but the repeated ones develop into major trends, shaping our lives and interests in the future. Understanding this phenomenon is a key to understanding communications…knowing which issues or subjects are short-term and which ones have permanence and are truly relevant.

Whether one calls these futurist techniques science or art…our capacity for awareness lies within time and space…whether measured in inches or minutes or bytes.  It is the interpretation that requires our genius…from the futurist, the alchemist…or perhaps from the next best selling author.