Andrew Curry, London: Future Savvy, by Adam Gordon

Future Savvy was the most stimulating futures book I read this year. I was put off at first; it sets itself up as a book about forecasting, and I am sceptical about this (you learn early in futures work that all forecasts are wrong, except for the ones which are right for the wrong reasons). But businesses and governments live by forecasts, and as you go further in, you discover that  Adam Gordon’s intent is to make us appreciate the limits of forecasting.

There are good chapters on the nature of bias (social and personal), on why technology-led forecasts are so often wrong, and a reminder that the ‘blockers’ of change can be as influential as the ‘drivers of change’. Unlike some futures books, it is also clear and well-written.

It ends with a couple of chapters which are designed to improve the quality of our thinking about the future. The first takes some actual forecasts and interrogates their assumptions and gaps. (The forecast for the US housing market to 2013 by the US Homeownership Alliance is self-serving and spectacularly wrong). The second has a useful set of questions the reader can use to test the value of a forecast. As he concludes,

Good forecasting is as much about seeing what won’t change in the future. Even in fast-moving situations, not everything will change.

(The Future Savvy blog is here.)

Liz Walkling, London: The Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson

I have just finished reading this crime trilogy inside a month! The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest are un-putdownable, with a complex, interconnected and riveting plot and a cast of intriguing characters – journalists, security experts, corporate heads and a network of hacking experts. Particularly likeable – even given her multi-faceted role as victim, anti-heroine and the saviour of the day – is the dysfunctional Lisbeth Salander, an extraordinarily gifted computer hacker. These skills enable her to uncover the long-unsolved disappearance of the daughter of a Swedish corporate millionaire, aided by the other central character, Mikael Blomqvist, an investigative reporter.  The trilogy starts and finishes in tight courtroom dramas.  It’s compelling because  Lisbeth’s own story is a true injustice in all the senses of the word, but it’s this that makes her unusual character so likable.  I was sad to finish it and desperately tried to slow down to eke out the pleasure, but the final volume was so gripping that I failed. I was so engrossed I almost missed my tube stop several times.

Claudia Rimington, London: Damien Hirst, No Love Lost

Hirst’s latest exhibition consists of 25 oil paintings, all large, dark and brooding, in two rooms in the Wallace collection. Most of the paintings contain an object associated with death (a skull, a skeleton) and they sit in dark blue spaces.  All similar in feeling, and dominating the two classical rooms in which they are housed, their exhibition space is cold and atmospheric. Though the exhibition isn’t full of cheery subject matter, I would definitely recommend a visit to this before it closes on January 24th.  What’s attractive about this exhibition is the rare beauty of some of the works.  There’s something strangely compelling about Hirst’s low lit skulls in the dark – the deepness of the colours, the contrast between a sense of humanity and the nothingness which surrounds.

(You can watch a short video where Damien Hirst talks about the works in this exhibition here.)

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