Life & Style

Future to Go

On 29 January 1886, Carl Benz applied for a patent for his "vehicle with gas engine operation". The patent specification DRP 37435 is thus also the birth certificate of the automobile. In July 1886, the newspapers report on the first public drive of the three-wheeled Benz Patent Motor Car, Type 1. Editor-in-chief Michael Köckritz takes this "birthday" as an opportunity to look back into the past, but also into the future.

  • Text
    Michael Köckritz
  • Foto
    Daimler AG

Reinvention is one of those things. Just because something has been reinvented, it doesn’t mean that it will work right away or that it will keep on working in the long run. There’s also no guarantee that the thing is truly new or forward-looking in the most innovative sense. The next good question to ask is just how recognizable and plannable such a future actually wants to be. 

So what now?

Let’s see who has a plan and where some suggestions might be lurking.

In retrospect, the third of July 1886 was not a good day for the horse-drawn ­carriage industry. In fact, it was a pretty bad day for them, and all because the engineer Carl Benz went proudly rattling through Mannheim that day with his Benz Patent-Motorwagen, ­officially introducing the internal ­combustion automobile to the world – and with this revolutionary technology ushering in the imminent demise of their entire industry. But that’s just how it goes with ideas that change the world.

“Disruption” is the technical term for such game-changing inventions that displace or even pulverize established, traditional business models, products, technologies or services, and it’s no wonder that the start-up scene in particular has elevated this term to a buzzword that they happily exhale any time they can. With a fundamental prospect of success. Because disruption is not just a concept, but a principle. Every business idea and every service provider, no matter how successful, sees such disruptions as a threat to their very existence, especially if they are focused more on their customers’ current instead of future needs. It is virtually impossible for established companies to change their business model so easily from the ground up. Start-ups are more flexible. They have little to lose and much to gain, as Harvard professor Clayton Christensen, who developed the theory of disruptive innovation in 1997, explains. Moreover, new markets usually emerge unexpectedly for established companies. Due to their initially small volume and limited customer segment, emerging markets are not very appealing to them. This makes disruption the “innovator’s dilemma”.

In retrospect, the third of July 1886 was not a good day for the horse-drawn ­carriage industry.

In fact, it was a pretty bad day for them.

The options and excitation patterns of the digital age in an already overexcited and overagitated world, the pressing necessities that demand an awareness for limited resources and systematic sustainability thinking, plus a succession of disruptive start-up eruptions – everything may, will, must reinvent itself right now and without delay. For a future that no one knows, except perhaps a number of experts who don’t even know that they are experts for the future – which is a good thing, because the moment they think they are experts or want to be experts, they will very likely end up splendidly off the mark with their forecasts, which may, when expressed in such pointed terms, sound a bit confusing now but can be summed up quite simply in one statement: When it comes to the future, today’s experts are, unfortunately, not very accurate. “The average expert is roughly as accurate with his predictions as a dart-throwing chimpanzee,” is how psychologist and forecasting researcher Philip Tetlock summed it up a few years ago.

In a long-term study conducted over twenty years, Tetlock had tracked and evaluated more than 80,000 forecasts from 284 analysts from television, government agencies and ­institutions. Tetlock also provides an explanation for this sobering conclusion: Experts, who tend to have a fairly strong ego, usually rely on knowledge in areas of their own expertise and on the explana­tory patterns they have learned over the years. Now couple that with a receptive audience that loves to hear confidently presented, simple truths. Everyone loves certainty, after all. These experts rarely have to be measured against reality. Incidentally, experts whose reputation is at stake are particularly prone to overestimating ­themselves.

Experts, who tend to have a fairly strong ego, usually rely on knowledge in areas of their own expertise and on the explana­tory patterns they have learned over the years. Now couple that with a receptive audience that loves to hear confidently presented, simple truths. Everyone loves certainty, after all.

But Tetlock also proposed a solution. Working together with the U.S. intelligence community, he spent more than four years investigating how to improve predictions of political and economic developments. The first results are contained in his book Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction, which ­Tetlock co-wrote with journalist Dan Gardner. Tetlock researched more than 28,000 forecasts on current world events, made by people as diverse as a retired computer programmer from ­California, a military historian from New York and a secretary from Alaska. He then calculated the accuracy of each forecaster and discovered that some of them were actually significantly better than others at predicting the future. How come?

The authors argue that the main contributor to the forecasting success of these “superforecasters” is not their (usually somewhat higher) intelligence or that they possess some special prior ­knowledge, but the fact that they think and work in a way that anyone can adopt and train. Superforecasters are ( . . . )

Read the entire essay by Michael Köckritz in rampstyle #27 "By the Way".
Michael Köckritz

Michael Köckritz

Editor in Chief
As a journalist, author, artist and media maker, Michael Köckritz succeeds time and again in creating both attention-grabbing and sustainably stimulating impulses in the context of contemporary and future topics as well as lifestyle and luxury worlds. As publisher and editor-in-chief, he has realised a whole series of book and lifestyle magazine formats that have regularly won numerous national and international awards over the years. The car culture magazine ramp, the men's lifestyle magazine rampstyle and the design magazine ramp.design are published internationally and are considered style-setting.
rampstyle #27 By the Way

rampstyle #27 By the Way

Mal ganz nebenbei bemerkt: Rund 30 bis 50 Prozent aller Entdeckungen lassen sich auf Zufälle zurückführen. Ob Klettverschluss, Viagra oder Röntgenstrahlen – man findet etwas, was man so überhaupt nicht gesucht hatte, doch dafür wird man mit anderem belohnt.

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