"If we intend to practice anticipatory technology assessment either as inventors or as policy analysts and scholars, we should not approach [The Future] as a surfer would the waves but perhaps as an oceanographer might."
"Prediction is very hard, especially about the future."
How should we approach futurism, with data or with intuition? We are (supposedly) serious scholars, and that implies some kind of data. Certainly, our review boards with be happier with dense footnoted and figured papers, but I'm far from certain that data driven research produces better results.
Futurism is not about specific predictions, timelines and events. Instead it is a way of looking at contemporary policy choices, of broadening the framework and implications of our choices. The job of futurist is not to predict, but to scenario build, to give people a sense of what tomorrow is going to look like, and why that vision of tomorrow matters today. I've read a fair amount of futurist work, and I will say that almost anything by Bruce Sterling is more visionary and more true than the best of Kurzweil or Buckminster Fuller.
This is not to say that data isn't important. Futurists have to keep current on the latest scientific advances. Historical analogies are the basic building blocks of futurist construction. But while a rigorous, data driven approach may look impressive, I doubt that the results are any more useful.
We use imagination to explode the present.