Pentti Malaska in Memoriam

Professor Pentti  Malaska was the Founding Father of the Finland Futures Research Centre and one of the best-known developers of futures research on a global scale. His recent death has shocked the futures studies field and the international community of experts and condolences keep flooding in from all over the world.

It has been a difficult start to the New Year for the Finland Futures Research Centre. As it prepares itself for the celebration of its 20th Anniversary at an international conference in June, the department is dealing with the loss of two of its founding members; First, Dr. Mika Mannermaa who passed away in January and now Professor Malaska. 

Pentti  Malaska was born in Käkisalmi, near the Carelian Lake Ladoga in 1934. He later on obtained a Doctor of Technology degree, and was appointed as a Professor at the Turku School of Economics and later, as a Professor of  Statistics and Mathematics in 1966. His dissertation topic was related to energy production. Later on, issues related to nuclear energy became an important part of his expertise and critical research.

Pentti Malaska’s life-long interest, however, was futures research. He was elected as the first Finnish member to the Club of Rome in the 1970's and he created contacts and long-term friendships with a number of significant experts from different countries. Through this network, a ground-breaking idea opened up to Pentti; futures research has the potential to find new kinds of procedures and decision-making models providing alternative solutions to the complex problems in the rapidly changing and globalizing world.

Pentti Malaska was the founder of the Finnish Society for Futures Studies and its first long-term President and, later, Honorary Member. The work of the society as well as Malaska’s long-term personal efforts and commitment gradually developed Finland’s futures research onto its current globally-high level. Indeed, as recognition of his outstanding work, Malaska was elected the secretary general of the international umbrella organization WFSF (World Futures Studies Federation) followed by the President’s post. As the futures research discipline gained a firmer scientific footing amongst other sciences, in 1992, a separate unit, the Finland Futures Research Centre, was founded at Turku School of Economics, with Malaska as its director. Malaska stayed in his post until his retirement.

In addition to founding the futures society and the Finland Futures Research Centre, Pentti Malaska contributed first and foremost to creating the theoretical foundation for the field. In his writing, articles and studies, he was particularly interested in exploring and discussing the change in society and the world through which the industrial society breaks down and gradually, through an evolutionary process, develops into an entirely new kind of entity. According to Malaska what was needed, therefore, is a new kind of multi-disciplinary perspective and methodological tools to examine the wide range of possible futures, and finding the best possible future. He talked about the alternative worlds and the challenge of knowing of them and widely explored the concept of visionary thinking and visionary leadership to support the strategic futuristic work.

At the same time it was also important to Malaska to develop the teaching of futures research. On his initiative, the Finland Futures Research Centre established the Finland Futures Academy (FFA), the course structure of which was originally Malaska’s handwriting. Malaska was also closely involved in developing the field’s own Master’s program and actively participated in the actual teaching at the department.

Alongside with his rigorous scientific endeavours to develop the discipline, Pentti Malaska also had his poetic and artistic side. He wrote poetry all his life and also published a collection of poems. Hence, there is no better way of ending this obituary but by a poem written by Malaska himself. The poem reflects the depth at which Malaska was able to understand the role of human beings in the slow but inevitable passing of time. 


Time Becoming Reality

Time flows
   to the Present
from two directions:
   from the Past
   and from the Future
From the Past
   as our deeds accomplished,
   results materialized, and
from the Future
   as our aims and visions,
   ideas of hope
   as despair,
   objectives targeted and committed to.
At the Present
   the streams of Time
   are moulded together, and
   they cannot escape
   from becoming reality
Men and women,
   all the same everywhere!
   But their Pasts and Futures are different,
   create diverse realities at the Present
   - a precious gift to Humanity -
   but why is it so strange to face, and so difficult to tolerate?
(Pentti Malaska: Open and fuzzy systems, Weiling & Göös 1979)
Anita Rubin
Author is Professor Pentti Malaska's student and colleague
Translated by Trinesh Champaneri







"Pentti was a great thinker and a great human being. I am sure he will be greatly missed in Futures Studies in WFSF and to all his friends like me."
- Eleonora Barbieri Masini
"Pentti was a good friend, a dedicated futurist, and a empathetic human being. He seemed always curious about things and inquiring about them, topics from science and scholarship to poetry and
- Wendell Bell

"We Hungarian futurists are convinced that Pentti Malaska had a marvellous and unique role in the foundation and the unfolding of the scientific futures studies in the 20th century and he helped to lay the foundations of the complex synthesis of them for the 21st century."
- Erzsebet Novaky 

"I first met Pentti when he gave an extraordinary lecture at one of the annual Futures Courses held in Dubrovnik for a decade or so in the late 70s and 80s. He then became Secretary General of the WFSF while I was President. Because of we were both early email adapters, our cooperation was quick and efficient even though we were literally poles apart. He had a great mind and sense of humor."
- James Allen Dator