Our forecasting system follows principles of collective intelligence and consists of the five phases below:
Phase 1 – Scanning
We first scan the scientific literature, media, Internet, interviews, and other sources to accumulate background data.
Phase 2 – Analysis
Next we organize the scanning data into an analysis consisting of a summary, other forecast data, the event being forecast, and trends opposing and driving each forecast. These key elements are defined below. The analyses are valuable because they summarize the best available knowledge on any forecast in a convenient format.
Adoption Level and Market Size Data summarize available information on the present adoption level, any forecasts that are available, estimates of economic demand, and other relevant data points.
Event Being Forecast is a precisely defined adoption level, milestone, or target to be forecast. Technologies are tracked as they pass through the typical life cycle of commercial introduction (>0%), take-off (15%), mainstream use (30%), etc. See Adoption Stages. We typically use the 30% adoption level because technologies enter the economic mainstream at this point, but others are used where appropriate.
Social trends follow a similar life cycle, but the forecasts focus on differing adoption data that are most crucial to the trend, as well as social impacts generally. Wild cards focus on forecasting probability and impact levels.
Cons consist of trends opposing adoption. Cons can take the form of limited performance, high cost, political obstacles, lack of social acceptance, limited business development, and other factors.
Pros comprise trends driving the event. They typically describe breakthroughs, business investment, examples of successful adoption, changes in government policy, statements by prominent authorities and the like.
Phase 3 – Expert Survey
Our experts go online to integrate all this information using their best knowledge and judgment . The panel includes a rich mix of differing perspectives. TechCast strives to enlist competent authorities with advanced degrees, extensive publications, relevant experience, and breadth of knowledge. They are asked to focus on areas they feel most knowledgeable about, so not all respond to all forecasts. Delphi surveys are considered reliable if they include a dozen or more experts, and we surpass that criterion considerably. (1)
Phase 4 – Results
The system aggregates these estimates to produce forecasts that are updated in real time. Frequency distributions are also provided to enhance transparency. The data are presented in various formats that enhance understanding, as in the Forecast Tables and the bubble charts highlighting strategic analyses for each field.
Phase 5 – Iterations
Experts’ comments and new background data are incorporated in an updated forecast, and this process is repeated every year or so to track the forecast over time, allowing us to extrapolate the best possible results. Arrival dates are also noted to evaluate the accuracy of forecasts. TechCast analyzes the results to identify an Optimism-Pessimism rating for each expert and to identify which qualities make more accurate experts.
1. Harold Linstone and Murray Turoff, The Delphi Method (Reading, Mass: Addison-Wesley, 1975)