The state of futures studies

Trying to take some stock of the state of futures studies – aside from the corporate and marketing trends stuff which often seems to pass as “futurist” these days. There’s an interesting critique of the old World Futures Society by Richard Slaughter in the latest Futures (Feb 2008, though it’s been online for some time). Summary? “Not world, not futures and not a society”, though it is not all that unkind.

It was the following quote that caught my eye, though, from a review of a WFS book by Rakeesh Kapoor (the review, not the book)

“How we look at the past and at the present is influenced by our ‘map of reality’—which is influenced both by our socio-economic circumstances as well as our ideological–cultural predispositions…. (Therefore) how we interpret the past and the present world, and from there what kind of future world we want to create is as much a question of cultural influences and political choices as it is of having the skills to explore the future”

Nicely put. Still, maybe I’ve been taking my own assumptions for granted for too long as my first reaction is that it strikes me as a statement of the bleedin’ obvious. The fact that it apparently does need to be pointed out suggests that’s not so for mainstream (read North American) futurists of a certain vintage. No doubt that is true for the scenarios developed by the defence and intelligence communities, say. But for the rest, are things really that bad?

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