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Futures studies

Futures Studies as a field of knowledge and as scientific work

In many respects, the starting point of Futures Studies is the same as that of knowledge about society in general: it is based on our need to increase the amount of visible moral choices and to give meaning to the choices we make each and every day. Our choices, however, always depend on earlier choices and past developments. One can think that with certain issues we can trace our choices and their consequences far back – perhaps even hundreds of years. Moreover, the choices we make now are always connected to the information available at the time, as well as to our images of the future. The information and knowledge used by individuals and society in their decisions depend on history, culture, values, "Zeitgeist", and their personal level of learning, character and experiences.

The meaning of Futures Studies is to invent, evaluate and suggest possible and probable futures, and to help people evaluate different options. In their work, futures researchers make use of results and findings gained in different scientific fields, and make conclusions on what different possible, probable and preferable states of the future we face. This way, researchers can make sure that their advice will help people in focusing their decisions for their desired future, to plan effectively so that the best possible future can come true.

The starting points of Futures Studies

The starting points of Futures Studies can be summarised with the following:

  • The future is not predictable. The only thing we can do is to build images and ideas on the events ahead of us, to consider many alternative futures.
  • The future is not predestined. We can only consider the probability of different events and phenomena when thinking about the possibilities.
  • We can affect the future with our actions and choices. This is why it is important to know what is possible, what is probable, and what is preferable. Thus, when we consider alternative futures, we cannot avoid considering and discussing the meaning of values as well.

The future cannot be researched directly. It does not exist in the present in the same way as the present and the past. Instead, it exists in the present as intentions that can be studied. We can also study such facts and phenomena that bear an influence on the future.

The future is not predestined. We can research the alternative development paths, as long as we bear in mind that the different end results have different levels of probability. Since it is possible to affect the quality of the future through single choices, it naturally is important to define what kinds of choices can lead to the best and most acceptable future. This why values and value discussions are so important in Futures Studies.

 

 ​Author: Anita Rubin
(Finland Futures Research Centre)

 
 
 
  
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Finland Futures Research Centre
The Finland Futures Research Centre (FFRC) is a multidisciplinary academic research, training, and development organisation operating in the University of Turku.

The Finnish Society for Futures Studies
Since its establishment the society has, as the only body of its kind in Finland, played a unifying role among Finnish researchers connected to the field.

Committee for the Future
The Committee deliberates parliamentary documents referred to it and, when requested to do so, makes submissions to other committees on futures-related matters. The Committee conducts research associated with futures studies, including their methodology.

World Future Society
WFS is the first membership organization in the world for people who research, envision and create potential futures.

World Futures Studies Federation
WFSF is a global network of leading futurists. WFSF membership is transdisciplinary and very diverse. WFSF welcomes scholars, teachers, researchers, foresight practitioners, policy analysts, activists, students and others with a long-range view.

Club of Rome
The Club of Rome members share a common concern for the future of humanity and the planet.

Millennium Project
Millennium  Project is an independent non-profit global participatory futures research think tank of futurists, scholars, business planners, and policy makers who work for international organizations, governments, corporations, NGOs, and universities.