The future is not something that happens to us

It is the world we weave from the confluence of past gifts, present decisions and future-directed action

Papers 2001 -2010

A personal agenda for the 21st century (2000)

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

Beyond the mundane: reconciling breadth and depth in futures work (2002, 2004)

For some time there’s been a need within Futures Studies (FS) to develop methods that go beyond the dominant empirical tradition. It has become progressively clearer that our ability to understand the world ‘out there’ crucially depends on an underlying world of reference ‘in here.’ Understanding the near-future environment calls for a combination of views which, for example, give as much credence to judgement as to calculation. The paper considers a way of integrating these very different ‘ways of knowing.’ Read more..

From forecasting and scenarios to social construction: changing methodological paradigms in FS (2002)

This paper looks at shifts that have occurred in underlying methodological paradigms in Futures Studies (FS) over the last several decades. It suggests a progression from forecasting to scenarios to social construction and seeks to account for the rise of the latter. Read more…

Futures studies as an intellectual and applied discipline (2002)

Nearly a quarter of a century ago the CIBA foundation published a book called The Future as an Academic Discipline.  I remember approaching the book with eager anticipation, then recoiling in disappointment at the turgid prose, the lacklustre analysis. If, at that time, the title had been posed as a question, then my answer would have been ‘no’. But nearly 25 years later the answer became a definite ‘yes’: Futures Studies (FS) has ‘come of age’ during this time. Read more…

Why your organisation’s view of the future is wrong (2002)

Have you ever wondered why organisations usually ‘get the future wrong’; why the term ‘futures’ became synonymous with financial derivatives and why your company or organisation has little or no in-house foresight expertise? Many of the current methods for introducing futures techniques and thinking into organisations do not work, or do not work very well. A bit of trend analysis is done here. A few scenarios are turned out there. Maybe a few new ideas are introduced to the management team. But not much else. Typically the consultant futurist appears, carries out his/her work and disappears leaving little of substance behind…Read more…

Road testing a new model at the Australian Foresight Institute (2004)

This paper reports on the development of a new program of post-graduate studies in strategic foresight. It briefly describes how the program began and some of the ways it attempted to learn from other initiatives in order to develop a ‘second generation’ approach. A number of distinguishing features are briefly outlined, along with some of the early results. These include publications, research and work in the area of ‘methodological renewal’. Finally, an attempt is made to summarise lessons learned’ that can be applied more widely. Read more…

Waking up after the war (2005)

The essay begins with a brief analysis of the global problematique. Next, it concentrates on some of the ways that Futurists can respond and, indeed, are responding. This corresponds to what some have called the ‘resolutique’, or arena of possible solutions. A perspective is outlined that takes the discussion beyond earlier work initiated by the Club of Rome. The third section takes up the theme of what ‘waking up’ at the cultural level may mean. Finally, the paper considers some examples of ‘post conventional’ futures work. Read more…

The Transformative Cycle (T-cycle) (2006)

It’s easy to get bogged down in discussions about meaning since the issues involved are far from simple and everyone brings unstated presuppositions to bear. I wanted to cut through the complexity and provide a means of illuminating some of the structural aspects of change processes that reflected their dynamism without being overly simplistic. The result is a tool that I developed early on during my years at Lancaster that I named the transformative cycle, or T-cycle. It draws on some of my work on critical futures study and that of OW Markley. The paper outlines the basic four (or five) stage cycle, comments briefly on some of its proven applications and suggests further possible developments. Also see AFI monograph 6 (Archive on this site) on this topic. Read more…

 

Is America the ‘land of the future’? (2008)

America as the ‘land of the future’ is a persistent myth indissolubly linked with its distinctive culture and pattern of development, its wealth, power and technological prowess. While the nation was founded on dreams of liberty and freedom (notions that were at variance even then with the oppression of native peoples and slavery), those dreams have continued to fade. The founding myths are at odds with present reality for one key reason – the American empire embodies a form of ‘development’ that cannot be sustained, even by the rich. Read more…

Is American the ‘land of the future’? A Response (2008)

Conventional upbeat views the US were looking increasingly problematic. They seemed emblematic of a future that resembled an entropic trap with no easy exits. A trap, moreover, largely of its own making. Why was this? Why were responses so muted and what were the implications of the growing gap between perception and underlying realities? The purpose of this follow-up article was to respond to five other ‘opinion pieces’ published with the original essay in the previous issue. Read more…

Beyond the threshold. Using climate change literature to support climate change response (2009)

Global civilization is currently at a threshold that has been described as a contrast between “breakthrough” and “breakdown”. This article employs aspects of an integral approach to consider a sample of recent, leading-edge work on climate change. It has two key purposes. First, to explore and honour what each offers and how each contributes to a larger picture.  Second, to strengthen a range of climate change responses. Read more…

Evaluating ‘overshoot and collapse’ futures (2010)

You don’t have to be a professional futurist or foresight practitioner to realise that premonitions of disaster have a long history. Moreover, we have recent experience of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) and its continuing aftermath to remind us that the world is currently nowhere near what might be called an “equilibrium state.” Yet standing behind current concerns that fill the headlines daily there’s another deeper, larger and more systemic danger that we overlook at our peril. It has to do with the way that humanity’s collective impacts have already exceeded global limits in some key areas and look set to exceed others in the very near future. Read more…

Biggest Wake Up Call – Visual Commentary (2010, 2021)

This section was originally placed on my weblog as an introduction to Part One of my 2010 book The Biggest Wake Up Call in History which is still available as a PDF and ePub. The summary contains an image gallery, related resources and relevant links. This version has been lightly re-edited and updated. Read more…

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