Less than 20/20 vision

The impossibility of predicting complexity

Featured in

  • Published 20200204
  • ISBN: 9781925773804
  • Extent: 264pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm), eBook

EVEN A PERFECT metaphor runs its course. For decades, 2020 has offered a convenient label for conferences and strategic plans alike – perfect sight about the way forward, a convenient end date for planning. In the 1990s, Craig Emerson, later a senior minister but then a public servant, ran an influential series of public events under the 2020 label, inviting prominent speakers to think aloud about policy problems before that far and distant year. In 2008, I co-chaired a national version of this event, the 2020 Summit at Parliament House in Canberra. A thousand Australians, organised into ten policy streams, speculated about the decade to come. The conversation was invigorating and often prescient, but sadly few of us predicted something far more pressing: just months ahead the global financial crisis waited, which would abruptly end summiteer dreams.

Our fervent desire to guess the future makes us discount the failure of most prediction. There is little consequence for being wrong. Smart people promised a space odyssey in 2001, hoverboards in Back to the Future, fusion power just years away. Who do we now hold accountable for these gaps in our present?

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

If you are an educator or student wishing to access content for study purposes please contact us at griffithreview@griffith.edu.au

Share article

More from author

Facing the zeitgeist

EssayWITH ONE BOLD move King Henry VIII could solve many problems. He could meet his conscience. After divorcing his Catholic Queen, Catherine of Aragon,...

More from this edition

Science in an age of scepticism

GR OnlineThe risk associated with trust is that a person or institution we trust may fail to behave as we expect or hope. This highlights the difference between trust and reliance: we can rely on inanimate objects, such as our car or phone, but strictly speaking we are not betrayed if they don’t work properly. The same is not true in trust-based relationship...


PoetryI was told experience mattered. This is a lie, at least when it comes to light. I’ve drunk decades of it and still I cannot describe the...

Stay up to date with the latest, news, articles and special offers from Griffith Review.