Googling the Future – from the Present and the Past

An XKCD cartoon today described Googling the future using search terms such as “in <year>” and “by <year>”:

So I tried it:

Hmm – results from the future?

So I had a play in Google News… could this be a good way of searching forecasts?

By searching the past, we can search for old forecasts of the future…

I leave it as an exercise for the reader to search results from 2006, 2001, and 1991 for the 5, 10 and 20 years forecasts respectively for this year… let me know in the comments if anything interesting turns up;-)

See also: Google Impact…? The “Google Suggest” Factor

PS ANd this: Quantifying the Advantage of Looking Forward, which looks for different countries at the ratio of searches for year+1 and year-1 over the course of a year, then plots the resulting quotient against GDP. The results appear to suggest that there is a correlation between GDP and the forward looking tendency of the population. (But is this right? Do the search volumes get normalised (on Google Trends) by the volume of the first term at the start of the trend period? If the user numbers are growing over the course of the year, might we be skewing the future looking component because of loaded terms at the end of the year?)

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

9 thoughts on “Googling the Future – from the Present and the Past”

  1. Extremely interesting exercise. In an unscientific study of 2005 predictions for 2010:

    “IBM earnings per share could surge to $11 per share in 2010” – achieved

    “China aims to put man on moon by 2010” – think I might have heard about that.

    “Ford promises hybrid engines in half its lineup by 2010” – nope!

    We need a carefully selected sample though, this is too random.

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