There are at least 8 different approaches, for example to forecasting population number.
- Suck it and see: don’t anticipate outcomes; live in the moment.
- Predict using normative model: assumes causation by binary events, e.g heads or tails with 10 coins give a bell-shaped range of outcomes with a mid-range value e.g. 5 heads being most probable.
- Predict using Poisson distribution: assumes complex chain of natural events, e.g Per annum deaths by horse-kick in the Russian cavalry. Outcomes are snapper fish shaped: a blunt nil nose, a fatly probable mid-section and a long tailing off of multiple events.
- Predict using rectangular distribution: roulette-like equiprobability; caused by random luck.
- Deterministic model: calculates what outcome and when.
- Prescriptive forecast: plumps for an outcome to reduce speculation and acts as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Beware of governments bearing false forecasts.
- Intervention: someone controls occurrence of an outcome.
- Faith: relies on divine intervention.
We are usually ready to believe in someone spruiking a good future.
My novel The Grass is Always Browner is political fiction thriller. It tells a story about Australia 250 years in the future.
Courier Mail Ipad Video Making
This afternoon I went to the CM’s building in response to their request for a 20 min interview to make an Ipad video. I was told they wanted to include three topics: the setting, the characters and the writing process. I had assumed that I could do my speech for the book launch but they didn’t want that. Instead I talked and talked, with the encouragement of my contact, Books Editor Fran Metcalf. I think she hadn’t read it. She thought it was an unfamiliar genre and her questioning implied that she thought it closest to a non-fiction forecast, even though it says “speculative fiction” on the cover. She wanted me to establish my evidence and credentials for speculating about Brisbane 240 years in the future.
Is my book a prediction of the future then, a planning scenario?
In forecasting, there is a rule that you can only extrapolate, or trend forwards, for one third of the sample interval. Thus you need 3 years of data to predict the fourth year with confidence.
Newcomen’s steam engine started the Industrial revolution 300 years ago, with a discontinuity from earlier. Therefore, there are 300 years of continuous data on the technological, economic, social and psychological revolutions that occurred during that interval . We can use them to extrapolate forwards 100 years with some confidence. Beyond that, we can have little confidence.
What should we think about the future more than 100 years ahead? What we can have is not a forecast but a fiction, a story, possibly a good one that will stand the test of time, more by luck than by judgement. It is speculative fiction, about what hasn’t happened yet but could happen. It is science fiction. It is NOT a planning scenario, although it could be if there is no other (clearly things cannot stay the same).
The science fiction genre that explores social and political structure is social science fiction. Novels usually have future crises leading to creation of an ideal world or utopia, or the opposite, a nightmare world or dystopia. Or, a bit of both.
I think the way the CM dealt with me was slightly hostile. I suppose Fran sees herself as a guardian of a CM image of Brisbane that does not include dystopic speculation. When I see their video and whether it will encourage potential Ipad users to buy then I will know their position better.
Fran may also have had a less parochial concern to protect the material economy from opposed speculation. It is unfortunate that dematerialism is equated with poverty rather than spiritual growth.
Lives will become less indulged with materials and poorer in possessions. They will be richer in health, care, tradition and self-fulfillment. Individuals will be less isolated and lonely, within one of a diversity of communes of like-minded people of all ages. As civil society grows, the economy will metamorphose, from material to spiritual growth.
Dealing with human spiritual, self-fulfillment, aesthetic and education needs is labour intensive. Full employment, of those who want to work, can be expected. Creative and aesthetic industries to supply these human needs, such as movie studios, will grow at the same time as factories making inessential material products wind down. Investment will turn from depleting material resources to human skills development and application. The share market may respond optimistically.
CUBA WITHOUT OIL
MEETING OF THE AUSTRALIAN GREEN DEVELOPMENT FORUM
On Friday 22 July I watched a movie “The Power Of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil” and a talk by Mario Alberto Arrastia Avila, Producer of “Energy and Climate Change” program, Cuba. This was followed by a panel discussion with Morag Gamble, Adam Beck, Kerry Shepherd and Rob Pekin.
When the USSR disintegration reduced crude oil imports to 30%, the people responded with home-grown ways of growing food including replacing tractors with oxen. Companion plantings replaced pesticides. Fertilizers were no longer needed when the soil was rebuilt. with the flora and fauna that the chemicals had killed by demineralisation of the soil.
Some off-the-shelf technologies were adopted, e.g PV panels and Permaculture.
The main factor was caring, not technology.
People cared about growing food without petroleum fuels because they were hungry. They cared about each other and shared the food they grew with hospitals and the elderly.
Economic values responded and food growers were amongst the highest paid workers.
Whereas petroleum supplies to Australia are vulnerable, as with Cuba, from shifting international political alliances, there was an even earlier possibility of food scarcity. I observed that Queensland food supplies had been under threat in the recent drought. Vegetable s had almost disappeared from Coles. People had started growing their own vegetables. There had been plenty of meat as herds were slaughtered but even this supply was beginning to run out.
With depletion of petroleum and population growth, food security in Australia will worsen. In my book The Grass Is Always Browner, I predict devastating famines, as well as warfare, have uprooted the population and created a rural society intent on independent food security.
Recently I attended a performance by the Chinese National Theatre in which the action was entirely taken up in achieving a pleasing pattern of distribution with a truckload of rice. I went away with the impression that in China, fair food distribution is the major pre-occupation of the national government. I predict that by 2257, the same preoccupation will apply in Australia.
For me, the outstanding lesson from Cuba is that Australia needs local community organisations that will harness the resources of voluntarism for agreed purposes. These might be energy and water conservation, electricity supply, pollution reduction, zero population growth and so on. State and Commonwealth Governments are useless for this and should be disbanded.
Kerry pointed to the community response to cleaning up the mess from the flood in Brisbane in January 2011, as an example of caring community action. Again, the people of Brisbane made large unpoliced sacrifices in their use of water in the recent drought, cutting average personal consumption to a fraction. Tales of enormous voluntarism in providing supplies for the troops in WWII abound.
I believe that voluntarism should be expected all the time, not just in wars and disasters. I call this principle ‘selfaltruism’. It requires a person to take care of themselves first, then lend their resources and skills to the community. I believe that communities should be about the size of a city suburb, having geographic or economic boundaries. Such a community would be staffed by volunteers working part-time and pro-bono on services and projects.
We have growing isolation of individuals and families, who do not know and fear their neighbours. It seems designed, by a conspiracy of government and business, to sublime people’s psychological needs into a competition for conspicuous material consumption and private possession. In The Grass Is Always Browner, this sad state is overcome by living in communes with like-minded people, by a retreat from the excesses of materialism and by more leisure and more meditation.
What do other people think about voluntarism?
How can people with different skills contribute to their neighbours?
How much do we care about our neighbours’ welfare right now?
I found the AGDF discussion intelligent and stimulating. They care.
Martin Knox 24/07/11