I have always gotten a (somewhat painful) chuckle from the alleged old Danish proverb:

Prediction is difficult, especially when dealing with the future!

That, however, is not the point I want to make in this section.  It turns out that in technical areas, there is a sweep of events and developments that make prediction quite feasible.  But there is another aspect to this thought that must also be mentioned.  Here is my basic idea:

In technical fields, prediction of what will happen is much easier than most people think.  However, prediction of when it will happen is much more difficult than most people think.

In my experience, good technical people can see quite well into the future. They can often say what will be important or what the impact of research developments will be.  But they are woefully unable to get the time scale right!  I have personally been wrong by at least ten years in both directions!  Certain aspects of the computer field have exploded on the scene far sooner than I expected, despite the clear picture that such things were coming.  And biotechnology, which, even before the 1980's, was easy to pick as the key field for the future  has taken a lot longer than we might have anticipated to fulfill its promise, even though it continues to look just as important as we once thought.  (Some, but not all, of the reason for the slowness of biotechnology to develop is the Food and Drug Administration whose regulatory responsibilities provide a major barrier to quick commercialization in biotechnology.  But still, the field has been slow to find and overcome the difficulties in its way.)


It is key for you to determine who are the broad-gauge technical thought leaders in your organization.  Find them and listen to them in the light of the above comments.  They will be able to point you in the right directions for the future.  But they will have much less ability to see the time needed for that future to materialize.  Plan accordingly.