Papers 1984 – 2000

Towards a Critical Futurism Part 1: Critique (1984)   

With this article British futurist Richard Slaughter begins a three-part look at the futures field today and how a re-evaluation of key assumptions could enhance the applicability and impact of futures studies throughout the world. Read more….

Towards a Critical Futurism Part 2: Revising and Refining a Futurist Perspective (1984)

Continuing his assessment of the futures field today the author questions whether accepted notions of science provide models for futurism, examines some underlying ideological issues and discusses ways in which futurists may re-interpret their own needs. Read more…

Towards a Critical Futurism Part 3: An Outline of Critical Futurism (1984)

Having examined the importance of cultural biases and the inherent nature of the processes of value selection and goal-setting the author concludes his consideration of the futures field today. He outlines a ‘central project’ for futures studies and relates this to the work of individual futurists. Read more…

Future vision in the nuclear age (1987)

The purpose of this paper is to show that a basis exists for elaborating sustainable and convivial futures. The paper argues that nuclear weapons are rooted in primitive impulses and perceptual limitations that spring from the prehuman past, and that it’s a mistake to approach the nuclear dilemma as if it were merely a technical issue. Real progress lies less with the continued elaboration of technical systems than with human action and human development. Read more…

Probing beneath the surface: Review of a decade’s futures work (1989)

This article looks back  over a decade of futures work. It considers the development of critical futures studies, at several key premises and some outcomes in terms of teaching, research and other products. From this perspective aspects of the wider field a briefly discussed. Read more…

Assessing the QUEST for future knowledge (1990) 

This paper discusses the QUEST technique, pioneered by Professor Nanus and Dr. Selwyn Enzer in the early 1980s. Since then, QUEST has been taken up and applied by many people in a number of countries, including Australia and New Zealand. Several versions of the basic approach exist, and the paper explains why this process may well continue. The intention is to provide a critical overview and to comment upon the significance and possible future evolution of this technique in relation to the futures field. It appears to incorporate a shift of perception that may be of fundamental value to the field as a whole. Read more…

Changing images of futures in the 20th century (1991) 

The 20th century saw a rise in dystopian images of futures and an apparent decline in imaging capacity. The article considers responses to this ‘imaging dilemma’. They include critique, futures workshops, accessing cultural resources, renegotiating aspects of a worldview and ‘image-ining’ a different historical dynamic. It concludes that there is a substantive basis for informed optimism and empowerment. The keys to each lie in the nature of human responses to what is desired or feared. This is as true today as it was 30 years ago when this article was written. Read more…

The promise of the twenty-first century (1992)

The end of one millennium and the prospect of another to follow is not merely symbolic; it provides us with an opportunity to take stock and consider our position. Why are such turning points significant? They reflect powerful aspects of our reality. Among these is the capacity (even the need) of the human mind to range at will over time past, present and future. Another is the fact of our interconnectedness with all things past and future. Read more…

Looking for the real megatrends (1993)

The term ‘Megatrends’ was coined by John Naisbitt in the early 1980s and used to describe a series of changes ostensibly taking place in the USA and elsewhere. It passed into the language and was widely used. Yet the term, and much of what was attempted under its banner, required closer attention. Read more…

Why we should care for future generations now (1994)

This paper argues that caring for future generations is a legitimate ethical concern that arises from our common humanity. The first section explores several reasons why this extension of concern is appropriate and desirable. The second considers a number of strategies for accomplishing this goal. It is argued that caring for future generations now has a number of ‘win-win’ outcomes since it has positive implications for the well-being of present generations as well. Read more…

Cultural reconstruction in the post-modern world (1995)

How can one reconstruct a culture? After all, we have seen the decline of certainty during the present century and the rise of various perspectives that have greatly complicated our view of the world. The idea of cultural reconstruction can all too easily suggest a kind of hubris that is unjustified in post-modern conditions. The construction metaphor itself implies a tangible subject and an assumption of control that may seem inappropriate in this context. So why use it? This is a good time to remind ourselves of the active role of humans in shaping their present and future. If there is a central idea underlying the foresight principle, it is that humans are creators of culture, makers of meaning, conscious agents in the social/historical process. Read more…

Long-term thinking and the politics of reconceptualisation (1996)

This essay is a response to the dominance of short-term thinking in Western culture. It begins with a critique of the minimal, or fleeting, present and then explores some possibilities for extending what might be meant by ‘the present’. It suggests that considerable utility may be derived from a more careful and considered use of particular time frames. It is doubtful if questions of sustainability, the rights of future generations and, indeed, the disciplined study of futures can be resolved without a number of innovations based on long-term thinking. Read more…

Futures studies: from individual to social capacity (1996)

This generic paper has stood the test of time. It tackles one of the core questions of FS i.e. how to ensure that ‘futures thinking’ is taken up more widely. It proposes a series of five ‘layers’ or steps that begin with individual capabilities and lead toward a fully installed capacity for social foresight. Read more…

Near-future landscapes as a futures tool (1997)

Near-future landscapes have been widely used as ‘maps’ to the near-term future but have seldom been studied or evaluated. This paper considers a number of late 20th C examples as ‘transitional forms’ that will rapidly evolve with wider application of imaging processes and further developments in technologies of graphic representation. Read more…

Futures beyond dystopia (1998)

The speculative imagination is a higher-order human capacity that can productively explore the not-here and the not-yet. To some extent it is already doing so. But these explorations are limited by prevailing cultural assumptions. The purpose of this paper is to suggest that there are other arenas to explore that, if they were taken seriously, could exert sufficient ‘pull’ to qualify as desirable images of futures. They could then begin to act as ‘magnets’ for the realisation of possibilities that are currently obscured. This paper provided inspiration for the later book of the same name published by Routledge, London, in 2004. Read more…

Creating and sustaining second-generation institutions of foresight (1999)

Institutions of Foresight (IOFs) are purpose-built organisations that focus on one or another aspect of futures work. Depending on definitions there may be dozens or hundreds around the world at any one time. Some of them are fully viable, while others no longer exist. The paper suggests that both successes and failures provide useful pointers for creating and sustaining second-generation IOFs. In particular, the paper considers some implications of the Australian Commission for the Future (CFF). It looks back at the 12 years of its existence, attempts to summarise its achievements. I then suggests a few broad design principles, that may be useful to other such initiatives around the world. Read more…

A new framework for environmental scanning, Foresight (1999)

This paper suggested that environmental scanning (ES) had been largely restricted to parts of the external world and overlooked the human and cultural interiors. In fact, inner/outer distinctions had been widely overlooked within Futures Studies (FS), as in many other fields of enquiry and action. Hence much well-intentioned, and otherwise disciplined work, took place in a cramped empiricist frame which, for good reason, was dubbed ‘flatland’. A broader scanning frame was needed if ES was to better comprehend a richer and more complex reality. The paper sought to provide an early step toward achieving that goal. Read more..

A personal agenda for the 21st Century (2000)

The 21st century looks as though it will be a ‘make’ or ‘break’ time for humanity and present trends do not encourage optimism. There are, however, many ways in which humans can act to develop foresight and to ‘steer’ toward more consciously chosen futures. This short paper considers ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ threats to humanity and to an emerging ‘congruence of insight’ about how we might respond. There is vast unmet need for many more voices to enter this ‘futures conversation’. Read more…