Future studies

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Future studies (also "futurology" or "futurism") is the study of the medium to long-term future, by extrapolating present technological, economic or social trends, or by attempting to predict future trends.

Extrapolation is just one of many dozens of methods and techniques used in futures research (as scenarios, Delphi method, brainstorming, morphology and others). Futurology also includes normative or preferred futures, but the real contribution is to connect both extrapolated (exploratory) and normative research to explore better strategies.

Futurology has some things in common with science fiction, and indeed some science fiction writers, such as Arthur C. Clarke, have been regarded as futurists.

Futurology, although sometimes based on science, cannot follow the most common scientific method of formulating and testing hypotheses, as it is not falsifiable except by waiting for the future to happen. They can and do, however, apply many scientific methods.

Futurists have a decidedly mixed reputation and track record of success. For obvious reasons, they often extrapolate present technical and societal trends and assume they will develop at the same rate into the future, and technical progress in reality goes in fits and starts - for instance, many 1950s futurists believed that by now space tourism would be commonplace, but ignored the possibilities of ubiquitous, cheap computers. On the other hand, many forecasts were accurate.

Predicted futures range from predicted ecological catastrophes, to a utopian future where the poorest human being lives in what would be regarded as wealth and comfort in modern terms, to the transformation of humanity into a posthuman lifeform, to the destruction of all life on Earth in a nanotechnological disaster.

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