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Persistent Forecasting of Disruptive Technologies – Report 2
with a system model in need of substantial development or change to be of use, the committee agreed that it would be in the best interest of the sponsor to continue efforts to build a next-generation forecasting system.
Observation. The illustrative models developed at the workshop indicate that the design and building of a 1.0 version persistent forecasting system for disruptive technologies are possible using existing technologies and forecasting methods and can be achieved within a reasonable time frame using a modest level of human and financial resources.
FEATURES OF A NEXT-GENERATION SYSTEM
Six Functions of the Version
Independent of the forecasting model used, a version 1.0 system for forecasting disruptive technologies should provide stakeholders and decision makers with a current forecast of potential futures and the potential disruptive technologies and impacts that would be the drivers of those futures as the current forecast applies to the stakeholders’ and decision makers’ domain of interest. A 1.0 system should contain six important functions: (1) needs definition, (2) collecting and developing alternative futures, (3) roadmapping, (4) engagement, (5) tracking, and (6) feedback. All four 1.0 options described in Chapter 2 incorporate these six important functions in their various approaches.
The 1.0 system should provide a mechanism to help stakeholders clearly define their needs in order to maximize the utility of the forecast. Generally, a technology forecast starts with one or more high-level questions. For example: What will the U.S. energy needs look like in 20 years? What sources of energy will the United States rely on and what technologies are needed to exploit those sources? The questions generally include a description of the community (the United States) that is being affected, a time frame (20 years), a domain of interest (energy), and technological impact (exploitation of sources of energy). These questions should then be approached with an awareness of the stakeholders’ perspective. For a persistent system, especially one that is used by more than one stakeholder, there is usually a method to collect “big, impactful” questions and a way for users, both experts and the crowd, to inspect and add to the collection. Sometimes these questions are categorized and ranked on the basis of a predetermined priority of needs or potential impact.
Collecting and Developing Alternative Futures
In a persistent system, forecasters, experts, and the crowd can hypothesize about alternative futures. An effective forecasting system should seek from these groups a broad range of alternative futures. This can be accomplished using traditional forecasting approaches (workshops, meetings, expert interviewers, polling) as well as newer approaches (Web-based collections, crowdsourcing, data mining, gaming, simulation, and prediction markets). These alternative futures should describe what the impact of disruptive change on the selected community might be, what preconditions would be necessary for the disruption to occur, which technologies might contribute to the disruptions, and what might be the source of the disruptive technology. These alternative forecasts should stimulate discussion and debate in addition to providing new ideas for alternative futures. A useful persistent system will capture the dialogue and discussions generated around these alternative futures. In some systems, users rank the likelihood of each alternative future; the committee believes that it is as important (if not more so) to rank the importance and impact of each alternative future.