Chapter 1 begins in early twentieth-century America and offers a prehistory of trend forecasting. The era saw society swiftly modernizing; in turn, the social sciences were producing a surfeit of data about life and culture. Observers, social critics, and government technocrats began to think of these data as predictive and explored how they could be used to make decisions and dampen uncertainty about the future. In light of these developments, “trends” emerged as a tool, allowing data to be used to anticipate change. The chapter highlights the 1933 study Recent Social Trends as a primary example of how trends could be used to manage uncertainty. The chapter also documents how trends served these ends in the burgeoning forecasting professions, including weather, economics, and fashion.
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