What can Google's search data reveal about our hunger to know today what will happen tomorrow?
1. We think about the future most often in December and least often in July. The motivation behind this clockwork activity goes beyond New Year’s resolutions. People are looking for predictions about their careers, spouses, industries and even countries.
2. Four industries are top of mind: One third of the 350 keywords focus on just four sectors -- Technology, Auto, Entertainment and Finance. Anecdotally, we know that the concepts of technology and the future are often linked. What's different now is we can measure the degree to which that’s true. We also see the presence of sectors that aren’t as obviously linked to futurism.
3. The only countries present in the data are the U.S., India and Pakistan. I’ll leave it to others to guess why that's the case, but what’s startling is the absence of searches for European, Asian and African nations.
4. Psychics? Really??? One in five future-oriented keywords reveal people looking for straight-out predictions. Together, they represent 34,889,400 searches a month! That's intriguing at first blush, but the data quickly takes a dismaying turn. Nearly everyone is looking to supernatural sources, like psychics and astrology, rather than rational ones grounded in science or professional forecasting. Maybe it's all in good fun looking up horoscopes, but still...99% is a big number.
Other interesting findings:
- Jobs: There are 482,100 searches a month for terms related to future careers
- Job security? The term "future proof" is searched 18,100 times per month
- Trends: “Future trends” is Google'd 74,000 times a month.
How does this square with your expectations about how other people feel about the future? Leave your comments below, and check out Google Trends and Google's Keyword tool and play around with the data. If you see something interesting, please share!