Historians have a pretty hard time figuring out the past; should they also try to forecast the future?
My guest on today’s podcast, Professor David Hochfelder, believes that, in fact, historians are uniquely qualified to forecast what comes next. In one recent interview Professor Hochfelder is quoted as saying that he’s never believed in “studying the past for the past’s own sake.” He observes that, “The major rationale for studying history is to figure out how we got here, and if we answer that question, if we have that mind-set, the very next question is, ‘So where are we going after this?’”
David Hochfelder is associate professor of history at the University of Albany, part of the SUNY system. An electrical-engineer-turned-historian, Dr. Hochfelder has written on the histories of technology and business, combining both in his book The Telegraph in America, 1832-1920. We’re very pleased to have this provocative thinker as our guest this week on Historically Thinking. Join us as we talk about why the 19th century, not the 20th, experienced civilization’s greatest technological leap; the difference between predicting and forecasting; what terms of art savvy forecasters like to use; and why.
For Further Investigation
“Are historians the ideal futurists?” from Inside Higher Education
Jason Pontin, “Why We Can’t Solve Big Problems”, from MIT Technology Review, November 2012