18 April 2006

Has futurism failed? [The Wilson Quarterly]

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The Wilson Quarterly
The Wilson Quarterly has published a long article on the history and current state of futurism, which gives a good overview of the growth of the field over time, its “high-water mark” (in 1980), its decline and some of its new tendencies.

“While formal study of the future declined in the United States, dozens of other countries launched elaborate foresight exercises to examine their futures in the post–Cold War order. These countries included Norway (Norway 2030), Germany (Futur), Great Britain (UK Foresight Project), Finland, Australia (Australia 2013), New Zealand (The Foresight Project), the European Commission (Europe 2010), Poland, and Kenya (Kenya Scenarios Project). The future is also being seriously explored through work on other topics, such as “sustainable development”—but again, more outside the United States than within.”

“These efforts have surprising parallels in the private sector. While long-range planning in the public sector is frequently denigrated in the United States, many corporations are intensely interested in thinking about the future. Management schools and professional journals are full of discussions about the need to create “learning organizations” and other means to institutionalize constant adaptation to change. Businesses devote enormous resources to efforts to anticipate new markets, products, and technologies, and they are avid consumers of traditional economic and demographic forecasts. Many of the best-run transnational corporations have been developing sophisticated efforts in such fields as environmental scanning, issues management, and scenario-based planning.”

“Another hopeful development is the emergence of images of the future that appear to be both positive and realistic and that transcend many of the divisions and arguments of the past.”

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Related stories:
America’s romance with the future
Doom and demography

(via Noise Between Stations)

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