Bruce Lloyd

The Knowledge Base of Futures Studies. Foundations (372 pp); Organisations, Practices, Products (419 pp) Directions and Outlooks (396 pp) Edited by Richard A. Slaughter, Futures Study Centre/DDM Media, AUS$250.00 (3 volumes).

A massive attempt to reflect, and summarise, current thinking on a wide range of critical futures studies questions and issues. Just what is futures studies? How can the future be studied before it happens? How far is the future predictable? What are the practical applications of futures studies? Do futurists constitute a profession?

These three volumes contain some 50 articles by a number of the leading world authorities on their respective subject areas, which address these-and other questions. The approach is subdivided into a number of sections: Origins; Futures Concepts and Metaphors; The Futures Literature and The Foundations of Futures Studies (Vol. 1); Futures Organisations; Futures Methods and Tools; Images and Imaging Processes; Social Innovations and Futures (Vol. 2); New Directions in Futures Thinking; The Outlook for the New Millennium; The Long View (Vol. 3). Full of stimulating ideas both about techniques which help to reduce uncertainty, and ideas about future trends themselves. Approximately 50 pages of acronyms and the glossary of futures terminology are repeated in each volume.

It’s apparently the intention of the editor/publisher to produce additional volumes. So a further theme worth including could be a consideration of the relationship between futures studies and strategy. Equally, if this material can be made available electronically it would likely gain wider use.

Overall this is an invaluable introduction to the subject which is likely to be an indispensable aid to students, academics, planners and researchers; both professionals and those with a genuine general interest in the future, which really ought to include all of us, especially as we move into the new millennium: “the great learning point in the history of the world”, as one commentator has put it. You may not agree with all the comments included but the net result of their close study should be a level of thinking that is based on a deeper knowledge of the possibilities.

In general, an impressive project, and one that is long overdue.

From: Long-Range Planning, 1997.

At the time of writing Bruce Lloyd lectured at South Bank University, London, UK