"We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run." – Roy Amara (1925-2007)
Roy Amara, engineer, forecaster, and longtime president of Institute for the Future, died on Monday. At age 82, Roy still made regular visits to IFTF and attended our conferences, always offering sage advice and brilliant bits of insight. Several months ago, I had lunch with Roy and we talked at length about synthetic biology, an emerging field we agreed will likely have a profound impact on our world. At IFTF, we always make a point to look back at history before starting any forecast. As part of his personal interest in the future of synthetic biology and healthcare, Roy told me he was taking a look way back, reading Charles Darwin's diaries from beginning to end.
Roy's career began in 1952 at the Stanford Research Institute where he worked on the development of the ERMA computer. During his 18 years at SRI, he directed research programs on interactive computing, decision analysis, and worked closely with Doug Engelbart on the proposals that led to Engelbart's history-making Augmentation Research Center. In 1970, he left SRI to become president of Institute for the Future, a not-for-profit research group that helps companies, governments, foundations, and other institutions think about the long-term future. At IFTF, Roy established our Ten-Year Forecast, now in its 35th year. In 1977, he led one of the first studies on the possible impacts of global climate change.
This year is IFTF's 40th anniversary. We'll miss Roy as we celebrate where his dedication, generosity, and foresight has led us.