a baron wishing to withhold benefits from workers might reframe that desire as a prediction about a future in which every human being is a solo entrepreneur. A social media billionaire keen to profit from the higher advertising revenue that video posts draw, compared to text ones, might recast that interest—and his rewriting of the powerful algorithms he owns to get what he wants—as a prediction that “I just think that we’re going to be in a world a few years from now where the vast majority of the content that people consume online will be video.” (New York magazine had skewered Mark Zuckerberg after he issued that prediction at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona: “The Vast Majority of Web Content Will Be Video, Says Man Who Can Unilaterally Make Such a Decision.”) In the Valley, prediction has become a popular way of fighting for a particular future while claiming merely to be describing what has yet to occur. Prediction has a useful air of selflessness to it. Predictors aren’t caught in the here and now of their own appetites and interests. It seems like they aren’t choosing how things will be in the future any more than they chose the color of their eyes. Yet selecting one scenario among many possible scenarios and persuading everybody of its inevitability—and of the futility of a society’s exercising its collective choice among these futures—is a deft way to shape the future.
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