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History of Foresight/Futures Studies & Methods to Plan for the Future: Home

This LibGuide covers the history of foresight/futures studies and techniques that forecasters/futurists use for planning.

Welcome to the Futures!

About this LibGuide:

          This guide encompasses the history of forecasting, futures studies as well as commonly implemented methodologies and includes useful resources relating to foresight.

          The resources include links to university programs, visually appealing  "futures" guides, people (i.e. futurists), organizations and developments that will enable amateur futurists to understand how strategic foresight works, so that we can better prepare for possible social, economic, ecological and technological changes in the future.

LibGuide Creator

Benjamin Franklin quote,
Dr. Seuss quote,
Abraham Lincoln quote,
John Naisbett quote,
John Connor

An Introduction to Foresight: What is it & why should we practice it?

          Examining the history of terms related to foresight indicates many changes in meaning, and use. As Sardar highlights, there is an abundance of analogous terminology, such as “futurists, futurologist, perspectivists, foresight practitioners, even horizon scanners have common currency,” which elicits specific implications for the utilization of forecasting (2009, p. 178). That being said, it is imperative to clarify how to best define foresight, as well as the main intentions behind its application. 

          According to For-Learn, “foresight is a systematic, participatory, future-intelligence-gathering and medium-to-long-term vision-building process aimed at enabling present-day decisions and mobilizing joint actions.” The University of Houston - College of Technology, moreover, notes how “professional futurists emphasize systemic and transformational change as opposed to traditional forecasters and planners who focus on incremental change based on existing conditions and trends." In this regard, modern strategic foresight is mainly about decisive preparation for today, so that we have a brighter tomorrow. It applies open, participatory and action oriented “thinking… debating… and shaping of the future,” in place of aimlessly reacting to uncertainties and losing sight of the bigger picture (For-Learn). As sources equally contend, “foresight is neither prophecy nor prediction,” rather it is about thoroughly understanding and investigating current world issues, and proactively making decisions that will positively influence our future in return. In this way, foresight, futures studies, and forecasting is more accurately an enterprise that centers around the idea of building futures, instead of assuming them to be fixed, certain and inevitable (For-Learn).

          From local to global levels, forecasting is used as a positive tool for confronting the challenges that accompany change. Therein, it is important to practice foresight so as to either develop actionable solutions for present day problems; and or limit the negative impact of economic, societal, environmental and technological changes and the corresponding challenges that are connected to these topics. Especially in a world that is rife with newfangled and ever-intricate issues on a constant basis, it is vital to our survival that we critically and cautiously observe, analyze, and strategize to more effectively adapt to a perpetually fluctuating landscape. As the world’s leading future organization, Institute for the Future (IFTF), succinctly reminds, we make the future with practical foresight.