Approaches to the study of the future
“No serious futurist deals in “predictions”, writes Alvin Toffler in his book Future Shock (1971). Since the early 70s, there has been a remarkable shift within futures studies from focusing on foreseeing and predicting the future to focusing on managing and “deciding” the future. Today the future is written in the plural – we do not speak of “The future” but of “Futures”. The change in focus can be described as a shift from what will happen to an emphasis on what can happen and what one wants from the future.
Futures studies is about creating ideas of alternative futures thereby creating a choice of futures. By formulating alternative futures, the comprehension of one’s own conceptions is expanded, and new possibilities and risks appear. Traditionally, futures studies have a 10-30 year scope and the 100 year scope is as such unusual even for futures studies. It is none the less necessary for encompassing the full extent of sustainability, environment and social change.
The 5 most important approaches
to studying the future:
#1. Broad approach: The future is shaped by technological change, but also by cultural, economic, political, psychological, artistic and social driving forces and changes. It results from the interplay of different angles – individual and psychological as well as collective and systemic. In the short term, an isolated tendency or economic cycle might make an impact, but in the long run these and many other parameters come together in a broader picture.
#2. Interdisciplinary approach: It follows from the above that there is a need to employ an interdisciplinary approach. Interdisciplinarity is always important in futures studies, and even more so when the subject carries the weight that In100years do. Many contribution are characterized by different disciplines offering separate predictions and foresights. As such, interdisciplinarity in the field of sustainability is a purpose in itself.»
#3. Deep Approach: While most futures studies include many disciplines and perspectives there can be a tendency to overlook psychological or individual aspects and focus on outer and social matters. In this project we explicitly involve both the personal and the psychological. Citing futurist Richard Slaughter we work both with what is “out there” in the realm of systemic and structural change and what’s “in here” of individual, personal and conscious change. Performance art, Cultural Studies and spiritual approaches all play a significant role in the project.
#4. Imaginative and historical approach: Futures studies deals with the possibility of that which has never occurred. Imagination, curiosity and creativity are essential elements in futures studies. Tomorrow isn’t like today, and with a continuous rate of change due to technological progress, enormous change can be anticipated in 100 years. As history is the best available input to the future, it is, at the same time, necessary to have a good understanding of the historic development of the system under investigation. A rule-of-thumb is to look at the subject twice as many years back in time, as we project the subject into the future. The combination of historical knowledge and imagination is one of the most challenging parts of futures studies.
#5. Involving Approach: The project In100years spans a year, and in that timeframe more than 200 Danish and foreign researchers, visionary professionals and decision makers from different sectors will have contributed to the development of the project and the scenarios. At the same time we work to involve even more partners through online means or special events at schools and universities.
Read the whole article about the process design of In100Y here