Future of Future Studies

July 19, 2003

in Strategic Foresight

Why is it that Future Studies has never really gotten off the ground.  This was an interesting session.  Certainly helped my perspective.  I’ve often thought that it is everyones job to study the future. Still — And I’m already getting the feeling here…. there is often too much talk about the future, and not enough intelligent analysis.  Yes it needs some constructs and frameworks.  Plus while the overshoot analysis may be correct….  

(Mini note: Lack of access to hook links while listening is reducing my pleasure of being here. Still can’t believe I am the only one with a laptop open in this session (ah someone else has joined. as far as i can tell….must be 50 here). Redefining strange. Should question whether I am strange wanting to blog this and add it to my bank of memories? Now thinking that here I am and the speakers.. aren’t enabling my interaction or connection with some form of avatar or even FOAF. Gosh would be nice to have some of their links etc, confirm my presence and set a possible dialogue for later. The speakers are also here for exchanges. The system is limiting them.)

Convergence and Collision:  Creating a new filed of applied foresight: (Paraphrasing again)

Begins with a story from HG Wells about the impact of the automobile. What we could have just learned if we had anticipated the automobile. Could Professors of Foresight have foreseen all this? Ie What we have today?

Rick Slaughter’s conslusion after 20+years is that our species is headed for the overshot and collapse reality. Basically the rational that gets me going is “perceptions of real danger” is what can change the system…. too many futures just help people get along with the subsidiary things. Idea of Strategic Foresight! Realised that conventional strategic planning is dull… “foresight refreshes strategy” the ulitimate goal… “sustaining social foresight” every individual has it… how do we bring forward the practioners to make it happen?

Peter Bishop University of Houston Clear Lake: Can we do anything. Is there any hope for foresight to help is create a better future in the future? Can we use Foresight to improve the human condiiton?

  1. Knowledge we might be able to have about the future.
  2. Most is highly contigent, but putting knowledge in front of them clearly infom. Try and lay out what we know in predicted and in the alterantive ways of where we might end up. Recommend where we might end up… choosing the best course of action… capacity to value, can affect the mix of recommmendations.
  3. Falls well out side of foresight … why don’t we take action ourselves? Why do people blank out and make assumptions?  Do we have good knowledge about the future? We just don’t have perfect knowledge. Our reasoning has unconsious influences. The values are nowhere clear. The problem is how do you weight. We’ve found pushing the buttons of society didn’t work.

How will society respond?. Some 30 years later we are more humble – we know we don’t know, and so strategic foresight faces a number of hurdles. The 20th century was a century of psychology… the elevation of individual above all things. That came down to an individual discussion of foresight. In society we can’t act only as individual, and have found the modern conception was not quite valid. The invention of democracy and politics is about the pursuit and maintenance of power within a framework. The second is the free market and capitalism. Two solutions show how we can have colelctive solutions that can improve it all. These are examples of collective activiities that have solved some of the decision making.

What are we to do in an ecology of ideas. Richard Dawkins ideas of memes… they live in a ecology. based on their abitity to survive and propagate themelves. Proposing mulitiple answers and letting them beat up on each other… is perhaps… the way to address the threat of overshoot and collapse? Current restrictions in the free flow of information is limiting responses.  There are not enough sources of ideas about the future fueling the ecology of ideas… hope is the internet is a place where that might yet happen. Central sources of info remain a problem.  Our knowledge is a function of choice. choosing what we should know and believe. How do you make choices unless you know what the choices are? Point out to people that they have choices. Choices in their actions and thoughts.

Foresight is the practice of the ecologies of ideas in conjunction with alternative scenarios for the future.

Mike Marien Editor of Future Survey for 25 years.  Many corporates get this monthly abstract.  Of course it’s not really online.

Futures Studies has … seven disabling myths.

  • Future studies is a field or a discipline
  • Futurists are generalists
  • Futurists are primarily Futurists
  • Future Studies do what no other field does
  • Future Studies is understood and appreciated by outsiders
  • Future Studies is a commmunity

Six categoreis of FuturesThinking five P’s and a Q

  1. Probable futures
  2. Possible futures
  3. Preferable futures (these first three are pretty common)
  4. Present Changes (auditing, indicators, social reports, trend analysis vital signs and 9 others)
  5. Panoramic View (big pictures, comprehendsive views, consilience, holistic thinking, eintreative thingks, ponoptican thinking, systems thinking and 18 others)
  6. Questioning (critiquing dissenting, embracing error, reformulation, unlearning and 9 others)

Continua for Analysing Futures Thinkers

  1. Culture
  2. Dispostion
  3. Style
  4. Origination individual versus group
  5. Time frame very long terem vs now
  6. Breadth
  7. Ideology
  8. Identity
  9. Grounding: realist vs idealist , academic vs applied, western vs not western
  10. Relevance leading edge vs sideshow vs backwater
  11. Right
  12. Engagement

So with this foundation and perpective on Future Studies what should we do? Eight broad tasks if Future Studies is to really go ahead.

  1. Shared vision of what we are about
  2. Emphasis on all purposed. The five p’s and a q
  3. A serious Global Information Sytem
  4. A widespread and evalutated academic presence
  5. Multiple excellence
  6. Second profession recrutiment and training
  7. A respectable Public Presence
  8. Adequate Funding as if the future mattered.

Can’t help thinking that something is missing here.  I’m getting a sense that Future Studies was invented as an idea some thirty + years ago and hasn’t come all that far since.   

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