I've been reading some back issues of The American Scholar recently, as part of my personal commitment to read widely and explore topics that I'd not normally think about. Reading widely is the side story of my quest to explain how Boards influence company performance. It provides a bit of balance to the humdrum of reading academic papers.
Some of the articles and books that I have read have really captured my attention and thought. One such article, originally published in the Spring 2010 issue of Scholar, summarised British philosopher A.C. Grayling's book Ideas that matter: The concepts that shape the 21st century. Grayling introduced 12 ideas that would, in his opinion, dominate public consciousness and debate during the century ahead.
This sounded remarkable, for the making of reliable predictions—especially longer-term predictions—is notoriously difficult. A reliance on empirical evidence can easily lead to erroneous conclusions—the White Swans Thesis is a famous case in point. Notwithstanding this, most, if not all, of Grayling's predictions are coming to pass, just three years after his thesis was published. What does this say about Grayling's ability to predict the future? Did he see something that most of us missed, or is Grayling's "long term view" actually much shorter than what readers might have assumed in reading the title? I suspect the answer lies somewhere in the middle. Call me a sceptic if you will, but I'm yet to see a robust case to suggest that the making of future predictions based on empirical historical evidence is anything more than intelligent guesswork.
Thoughts on corporate purpose, strategy and governance; our place in the world; and, other things that catch my attention.