Future studies

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(Redirected from Futurologist)

Future studies (also called futurism, futurology, and futures studies) is the study of the medium to long-term future, by extrapolating present technological, economic or social trends, or by attempting to predict future trends. Extrapolation is just one of many dozens of methods and techniques used in futures research; others include scenarios, the Delphi method, brainstorming, and morphological analysis. Futurology also includes normative or preferred futures, but the real contribution is to connect both extrapolated (exploratory) and normative research to explore better strategies.

A futurist (also "futurologist") uses varying proportions of inspiration and research. The term excludes those who make future predictions through supernatural means, and also usually excludes those people who attempt to forecast the short-term or readily foreseeable. For instance, economists who forecast movements of interest rates over the next business cycle would not generally be considered futurists, whereas those predicting the relative wealth of nations in a generation's time may well be.

Several authors became recognized as futurists. They researched trends (particularly in technology) and wrote books describing their observations, conclusions, and predictions. Initially, they followed a cycle of publishing their conclusions and then beginning research on the next book. More recently, they have started consulting groups or earn money as speakers. Alvin Toffler and John Naisbitt are two prominent examples of this class. Many business gurus present themselves as futurologists.

Futurists have some things in common with the writers of science fiction, and indeed some science fiction writers, such as Arthur C. Clarke, have been regarded as such. Some writers, though, are less interested in technological developments and use the future only as a backdrop to their stories. For example, in the introduction to The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin wrote that prediction is the business of prophets, clairvoyants, and futurists, not of writers: "a novelist's business is lying".

Some attempts have been made at cosmological futurology, attempting to predict the long-term future of the entire universe, typically predicting either the heat death of the universe, or a cosmic Big Crunch.

Futurology, although sometimes based on science, cannot follow the scientific method, as it is not falsifiable except by waiting for the future to happen. They can and do, however, apply many scientific techniques.

Futurists have a decidedly mixed reputation and track record of success. For obvious reasons, they often extrapolate present technical and societal trends and assume they will develop at the same rate into the future, and technical progress in reality goes in fits and starts - for instance, many 1950s futurists believed that by now space tourism would be commonplace, but ignored the possibilities of ubiquitous, cheap computers. On the other hand, many forecasts were accurate.

Predicted futures, as of 2003, range from predicted ecological catastrophes, to a utopian future where the poorest human being lives in what would be regarded as wealth and comfort in modern terms, to the transformation of humanity into a posthuman lifeform, to the destruction of all life on Earth in a nanotechnological disaster.

The Acceleration Studies Foundation (http://accelerating.org) maintains a page listing several types of futurist definitions here (http://www.singularitywatch.com/futuristdef.html).


Topics in futurology

Books predicting the future

Near-term predictions

A long-running tradition in various cultures, and especially in the media, is for various spokespersons to make predictions for the upcoming year at the beginning of the year. These predictions are sometimes based upon current trends in culture (music, movies, fashion, politics); sometimes they are hopeful guesses as to what major events are expected to take place over the course of the next year.

A number of paranormal activists, including self-proclaimed psychics, astrologers, and some religious figures, also make bold predictions regarding startling events that they believe will occur within the upcoming year.

Some of these predictions come true as the year unfolds though many fail. When predicted events fail to take place, the authors of the predictions often state that the failure of the prediction may have been due to a misinterpretation of known "signs" and portents leading to the predicted events.

See also

External links

  • A Futurist's Toolbox (http://www.number-10.gov.uk/su/toolbox.pdf): a guide to methods and tools used by the UK government in medium & long-term trends forecasting
  • Principia Cybernetica (http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/FUTDEVLI.html): Links on future development
  • The Institute for the Future (http://www.iftf.org/index.html): The Institute for the Future (focuses on: Consumers, Technology, Health and health care, Workplace , Global business trends)de:Futurologie

et:Futurism he:עתידנות nl:toekomstkunde pl:Futurologia ru:Футурология zh:未来学


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