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Futurology - Foresight and Visions

Updated on February 8, 2013

How is Future-oriented knowledge produced

The nature of future-oriented knowledge is often multi-disciplinary. There are also different techniques, protocols, methods and methodologies through which this type of knowledge can be produced.

In Futurology the production of future-oriented knowledge is usually carried out through different techniques or anticipatory thinking protocols; e.g. Scenario building, Systems thinking, Utopian or Dystopian thinking, Analogy models and parallels, Chaos theory, Evolutionary model or Nonlinear science.

The visions for the futures produced through these techniques and protocols can be divided into the possible, probable and desirable futures.

image: Cloud Gate ©Anish Kapoor

weak signals

& megatrends

There are many factors affecting the futurists' thinking, starting from the position constructed through education, orientation and values. Also the methods and methodologies that the futurists employ play a significant role in the knowledge produced.

The environmental, socio-political, cultural, technological and economical factors of the society where the futurist is based may affect the way the future-oriented knowledge is produced. It is also important to remember that these factors according to the era where this knowledge is produced.

Within my own field of research - digital new media art and design, the production of knowledge often parallels with the development of digital technologies, their usability and implementation. However, it is also useful to employ a multi-disciplinary approach when dealing with the field that should, in my opinion, create novel ideas for the world through its disposition.

These ideas, exhibited in cultural context, have also a great possibility to affect thinking and practices of other fields of development by mirroring the results i.e. the artwork to the society.

From this context, if the artwork had been employing, for instance, a new technology that could have earlier been classified as a weak signal in accordance with futurology, by bringing it to a broader attention the artwork in question would facilitate this weak signal in becoming a trend.

' ... but the future is already here.

It's just not very evenly distributed.'

William Gibson

On History of Futurology

In the 1940's, after the WWII, the greatest requirement for futurology was to create a vision for a peaceful future. To support this vision the UN, body devoted to fostering international peace, was established.

In futures thinking it was also important to include socio-cultural factors, in order to face the future without famine, sickness or poverty. Democratisation was one of the key terms for this anticipation. Environmental issues for a sustainable future were also launched.

During the 1950's and 60's these ideals were swept almost entirely away. An example of this tendency is the US RAND-corporation developed Delfoi-method that was utilised almost entirely for military purposes. During these decades another prominent method to produce future-oriented knowledge was trendextrapolation that enabled production of quite predictable knowledge for economic growth, technological development, urbanisation and industrialisation factors.

In the US still during the beginning of the 1970's futurology was still strongly geared for predicting the economic growth through technological development. This outlook almost completely disregarded any societal, cultural or environmental factors when creating anticipations. In Europe, already during the 50's some critical voices to this type of futures thinking started to raise often in a literary form. Humanist as well as hermeneutic aspects started to become more prominent and they played an important role in peace-movement, demilitarisation and development research.

During the 1980's the humanist futures thinking gained more importance through global communication. The UN commission report "Our Common Future" was published. This trend has since gained even stronger popularity together with futures thinking through technological development. During the 1990's the futurists started gearing their interest in developing theories and methodologies of futurology towards the so-called complexity paradigm. Since then, through this new paradigm the multi-faceted and parallel futures of information and knowledge based societies have been studied.

Six historic landmarks

in development of Futurology

During the Antiquity the oracle-institution that existed in Delfoi can be seen as an archaic method for predicting the future. The aim of futurology, to advice the decision making affecting the future, was clearly present in this institution.

In 1516 Thomas Moore published "Utopia" that strengthened the importance of humanistic thinking as well as critical outlook. This model is employed still today.

The "New Atlantis" by Sir Francis Bacon, released in 1627 created a model for a scientific outlook (for futures thinking) that can be seen as predecessor for 1900's scientific/technological models for the future.

During the 1940's, after the WWII, the modern futurology was established by Ossip K. Flechtheim who then launched the defined concept for futurology. This can be seen, for instance, as one of the factors facilitating the creation of the UN.

In 1967 the "Mankind 2000" group organised a conference in Oslo. Their report gained importance through the humanist, normative as well as hermeneutic outlook that was closely related to the peace movement, demilitarisation as well as ecological and equality movements of the time.

On June 15, 1968 the Club of Rome was established in order to address the dilemma of prevailing short-term thinking in international affairs and, in particular, the concerns regarding unlimited resource consumption in an increasingly interdependent world.

Cloud Gate - by Anish Kapoor

Cloud Gate is the first public outdoor work of Anish Kapoor, installed in the United States. The design of the Cloud Gate is inspired by liquid mercury.

The structure of the sculpture is composed of steel plates that have been seamlessly fitted together and further polished. The sculpture weighs almost 100 tons.

Beneath the sculpture pedestrians are invited to wander through it. Cloud Gate is situated in Millennium Park, Chicago, which is also home to Frank Gehry's Pritzker Pavilion.

image ©Anish Kapoor

' All ideas grow out of other ideas '

Anish Kapoor

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What are your visions about the future?

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    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Hi Vinay, I like to think that being wrong is a badge of honour, as long as you're weranig your jacket the right way around, which is something that I frequently overlook.I don't think the humanitarian sector is a ghetto e2€“ in fact, I'd glibly propose that the humanitarian sector has a higher throughput of staff from a wider range of other sectors than any other work area in the history of the world. (Or at least it did until it became a career, and now an increasing percentage of aid workers are e.g. international relations graduates. THERE'S NOTHING WRONG WITH INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, but if you really want to help people you'd be better off doing an engineering degree, amirite?)The humanitarian sector is also filled to the brim with people who question its fundamental assumptions. Again, I'd glibly propose that the humanitarian sector is more self-flagellating than any other except the priesthood, especially around the principles. (A beautiful but outlying example of this might be on how much compromise they suffer when principles hit the real world. I agree that the sector isn't that open in public, but in private? We hate ourselves a lot of the time.)I'm not sure why you cite direct disbursement as an example (by which I assume you mean cash disbursement?). From being marginal and opposed, it swung into mainstream discourse over the last few years and is increasingly widespread, and is likely to become a standard tool in the kit in the future. I agree that the sector is conservative overall, and has difficulty managing innovation effectively my belief is that there is a lot of innovation out there, but no mechanisms for recognising and encouraging it. Hence my support for the Humanitarian Innovation Fund, which is one solution to that.One reason that I find your thinking interesting (although wrong e2€“ note, discuss elsewhere) is because you're not part of the sector, by which I meant you aren't located professionally within the sector (which doesn't mean that you can't make valuable contributions, of course). The main reason for interest is that you pull together ideas from all over into an interesting shape, and then push out to see if it will break. I appreciate this because I do the same (I just don't write about it as much as I should). By e2€œinteresting thinkerse2€

    • albadvert profile image


      7 years ago

      I like the lens.I like reading futuristic scenarios and fantasies.But there can be a little truth on them.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I found this very interesting!

      Nice job..


    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I did not know the word futurology before. In my pea brain I guess I would like to count on my Creator too....

      Very interesting! Thank you!

    • mariatjader profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago

      [in reply to kephrira] Thank you all for your kind comments!

      Futurology is something I am incurably passionate about.

      Stay tuned!


    • kephrira lm profile image

      kephrira lm 

      9 years ago

      I love this kind of stuff!

    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image


      9 years ago

      Welcome to The Totally Awesome Lenses Group


    • mysticmama lm profile image

      Bambi Watson 

      9 years ago

      cool subject, as someone very interested in everything metaphysical, I want to know more, I had never heard of futurology before.


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