Accurate Forecasting of
The other day I was rummaging through some of my old project
management records and came across an interesting set of 18 papers under
the title "Probing the Future". These papers were published in McGraw Hill's Construction
Weekly: Engineering News-Record. But rather than commenting at this point,
I'll let the record speak for itself. Some of the most interesting observations
are, with a little editing for continuity, extracted and reproduced below.
the Future Preface
by Arthur J. Fox, Jr., Editor
editors of Engineering News-Record have written Probing The Future
in celebration of the magazine's Centennial. In the following articles, they offer
a picture of what's ahead in the world, and in space beyond for those with
responsibilities for the man-made world. This is a reporting job, not an exercise
in crystal ball gazing. It is the result of research and interviewing done over
l6 months by l6 present and former members of ENR's editorial staff,
and by McGraw-Hill World News reporters on six continents.
a journalistic effort that took its writers to hundreds of industry sources and
to many sources not reached in their normal occupation of covering the news of
construction. The result, Probing The Future, is intended as a piece of
serious writing. It is aimed to serve all in construction and anyone outside the
industry who is concerned with its impact on the economy, and the environmental
or societal problems generally.
Subjects chosen for study are considered
to be the areas of real concern to construction the city, housing, water,
energy, transportation, and so on. Most of the subjects were assigned to ENR staff
members who have written on them for some years. This is so that their reporting
of what the futurists are thinking and saying might be as interpretive as possible.
temptation to celebrate 100 years of publication with a solely historical review
was easily resisted. It is the future, not the past, that is man's prime concern.
The past can't be changed; the future can. For among the readers of ENR are the
leaders of this largest single industry construction. And it is they who
can make the decisions to affect, or to prevent, or to profit from what is foretold
It is especially hoped that those with the greatest stake in the future
younger readers, including students still preparing to enter this industry
will be attracted to this text and caused to think about what it tells
2000 and Beyond
by Joseph F. Wilkinson
and change have been partners since the dawning of human intelligence. Construction
brings about change. Change brings about construction. Construction has led the
way for the development of mankind, taming the Earth, exploiting its materials
and harnessing its energies.
The change in early man from hunter to farmer
was the first step toward construction of the world's cities. Urbanization led
to commerce and industry, which needed construction for transportation, shelter
and energy. Change is the very breath of life for construction. Without changes
in population, energy, materials, manufacturing, transportation, food, shelter,
recreation and changes in construction, too this huge industry would
Next to human Intelligence,
the greatest force for change is human fertility. Earth has been compared to an
immense spaceship equipped with finite supplies for its seemingly endless orbit
of the Sun. The gloomiest prediction is that over the next century, population
growth, if not stopped, will sweep humanity into disaster from mass starvation,
exhaustion of resources, and collapse of industry, or over pollution and breakdown
of health services. The optimists argue that man's ingenuity will continue to
solve the problems that population growth presents.
Another force for change
and for construction throughout the world is increasing affluence. Yesterday's
luxuries become tomorrow's essentials. Spreading affluence means construction
of more and more factories, office buildings, homes, stores, stadiums, water systems,
hospitals, power plants, and streets. We are consolidating even faster than we
are increasing. In this century we have seen a worldwide trend of population shift
from farms and villages to metropolitan areas.
To cope with this will mean
construction of nearly the equivalent of what exists today to accommodate the
additional urban population. By 2000, about 140,000 square miles will
have to be paved or built upon. It will mean bigger and more expensive transportation
facilities, power supplies, water supplies, housing, sewage treatment plants and
waste disposal systems.
The rising cost of land, particularly urban land,
will lead to more and more multiuse high-rise structures. Buildings of 100 stories
will be commonplace and 150 to 200-story structures will not be unusual. Increasingly,
these buildings will become communities in their own right containing, not only
apartments, but offices, shops, and restaurants.
the foregoing, it seems to me to be a good description of where we
are today in 2018. As the editor of the series observes at the beginning, these
statements and predictions are the result of research and interviewing by ENR's
present or former staff members done over l6 months on six continents. The
authors of these thoughts, and subsequent ones that follow, are to be congratulated
for their surprisingly accurate predictions. I feel they are very representative of where
we are today (2018).
And those papers were published in April 1974
that's close to half a century ago. That shows that reliable
forecasting can be done if sufficient and appropriate resources are dedicated
to the effort.