I’d like to underline the most important point from our podcast with World Future Society president Tim Mack yesterday. The study of the future is about fifty years old at this point, a fact that might escape you given the astonishment of major media every time they mention it. Futures is almost as old as most of the serious disciplines of modern management: market research, marketing/PR, some kinds of finance.
That said, the discipline is growing up rapidly. The point Tim Mack makes with such eloquence is that much of the interest in foresight during past decades came from technophilia and pure optimism. That is to say, people wanted to know about the future because of how much more awesome it would be, from a scientific and social point of view. This makes complete sense when you think of the number of people who died in childbirth, died from simple infections, suffered wildly during surgery, went hungry and then…didn’t. Every decade there were miracles that represented remarkable progress in the ability of the human race to control its environment and shape its own destiny. It would only stand to reason that one would expect the future to full of nothing but such success.
The past couple decades have been telling a different story. It is becoming increasingly clear that our modern technology and social outlook can produce failure and catastrophe right along side progress and miracles. Today, you must learn to study the future to appreciate its implications both good and bad. This is not as much fun as anticipating awesomeness. But so what – that’s life. Maturity is all about taking the good with the bad. If foresight is to be a serious discipline that provides real value, this must be its destiny.
And we’re getting there.
It could be the most important time to be part of this discipline.