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Question the narrative. Narrate the questions.

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On May 7, a horse named Rich Strike entered Churchill Downs’ starting gate as an 80-1 long shot in the Kentucky Derby. During the hour prior to that moment, media commentators, statisticians, and racing industry experts all shared in exhaustive and breathless detail the pedigree, training regimens, and racing history of all the favored horses to watch that day. For the 60 minutes prior to the derby’s start, Rich Strike was treated as a footnote, an “also ran” next to names such as Epicenter, Messier, Zandon, and Mo Donegal.

And then, two minutes after the starting gate banged open, Rich Strike made history for winning a Kentucky Derby against the second-longest odds ever. Every $2 bet on Rich Strike returned $163.60 in winnings. Possibly the only thing more satisfying than having taken that bet would be the post-race bragging rights for having seen Rich Strike’s potential all along.

It’s a good reminder that narrative and storytelling are much safer for justifying hindsight than foresight. No one ever talks about foresight bias.

Yet, business, governance, investing, and life all demand that we formulate plans. We predicate those plans on our best guesses about an uncertain future, and it is difficult not to view that future as an extension of past narratives — especially if you are in the publishing business, where every industry development and trend is packaged as narrative.

We do have one advantage here at Photonics Media. It’s that we don’t mind admitting, “We don’t know.” We are ill-equipped to provide authoritative answers about the technologies we cover. It’s generally enough for us to know the right questions and who to ask. We can’t predict the black swans. But we can at least pay the dark horses their due.

All of this is top of mind as we begin to prepare our 2023 media kit and editorial calendar, and the program for the 2023 Photonics Spectra Conference to be held online this coming January. It is safe to predict that familiar narratives around laser processing, scientific imaging, and optical fabrication will continue to be part of our coverage next year. But we are starting to ask our industry contacts which questions will become more pressing in emerging and accelerating fields, such as optical metasurfaces, photonic integrated circuits, and quantum sensing, communications, and computing.

Our ability to provide valuable and practical content depends on our knowledge of what questions are burning a hole in readers’ brains. If you are reading this now, consider it your invitation to join that conversation. Let us know what photonics-related technologies, applications, markets, and business trends you wish you knew more about or understood better. If it is in our power to investigate, and if it is of value to our larger readership, you can count on us covering it more in upcoming issues, webinars, and online news stories.

Photonics Spectra
Jun 2022

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