Futures StudiesIndex Highlight

Futures Studies reflects on how today's changes (and continuities) become tomorrow's reality. It includes attempts to analyze the sources, patterns, and causes of change and stability in order to develop foresight and to map alternative futures. The subjects and methods of futures studies include possible, probable, and desirable variations or alternative transformations of the present, both social and "natural" (i.e. independent of human impact). A broad field of inquiry, futures studies explores and represents what the present could become from multiple interdisciplinary perspectives.

Futures studies takes as one of its important attributes (epistemological starting points) the on-going effort to analyze images of the future. This effort includes collecting quantitative and qualitative data about the possibility, probability, and desirability of change. The plurality of the term "futures" in futures studies denotes the rich variety of images of the future (alternative futures), including the subset of preferable futures (normative futures), that can be studied.

Futures studies is often summarized as being concerned with "three P's and a W," or possible, probable, and preferable futures, plus wildcards, which are low probability but high impact events, should they occur. Thus estimates of probability are involved with two of the four central concerns of foresight professionals (discerning and classifying both probable and wildcard events), while considering the range of possible futures, recognizing the plurality of existing images of the future (alternative futures), characterizing and attempting to resolve normative disagreements on the future, and envisioning and creating preferred futures are other major areas of scholarship. Most estimates of probability in futures studies are normative and qualitative, though significant progress on statistical and quantitative methods (technology and information growth curves, cliometrics, predictive psychology, prediction markets, etc.) has been made in recent decades.

Like historical studies that try to explain what happened in the past and why, the efforts of futures studies try to understand the latent potential of the present. This requires the development of theories of present conditions and how conditions might change. For this task, futures studies, as it is generally undertaken, uses a wide range of theoretical models and practical methods, many of which come from other academic disciplines (including economics, sociology, geography, history, engineering, mathematics, psychology, technology, tourism, physics, biology, astronomy, and theology).

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Source: Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Futures_studies