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In the last quarter of the 20th century, an awareness of the increasing pace and magnitude of change spurred the creation of a new academic discipline known as Futures Studies. While only a prophet or fortuneteller would claim the ability to foretell the future, Futures Studies aims to identify and analyze long term forces of change and their effects on society and the environment.

The field distinguishes itself from traditional forecasting and planning disciplines in four ways:

Futures researchers track technical innovations, value shifts, geopolitical tides, environmental perturbations, economic developments, demographic patterns, and other trends of change. From these data they create scenarios of possible alternative futures, which are then used as contingencies within strategic planning initiatives. Working as facilitators or consultants, futures researchers can help communities, corporations, and organizations envision their preferred futures and compare those visions with current trends and scenarios of possible futures. This process can be used to create plans and policies that bring about positive change.

Wendell Bell's Nine Major Tasks of Futures Studies

Futurist Wendell Bell writes in his book "Foundations of Futures Studies" about nine major tasks of futures studies. While some of these tasks are definitely debatable, at least they are issues, that are constantly discussed in futures studies.

So, what are these "major tasks of futures studies"?

1. Study of possible futures.
Every futurist asks, what are the possible futures. This is done to expand human choice: knowing the possibilities may give new views and ideas to make the possible happen.

2. Study of propable futures.
Futurists study some phenomenon, and try to - using different methods - study the future of the phenomenon in specified time. This includes both macro- and microsized phenomenon.

3. Study of images of future.
How people see the future? What are our hopes, dreams, anticipations... how they are formed and how do they affect our daily lives?

4. Study of knowledge foundations.
Futurists study future studies itself. Can future be investigated? What are the methods of futures studies? Are they valid methods?

5. Study of ethical foundations.
In short; futurists also study the ethics and values, for they are extremeley important in futures studies. What is the human nature like? Why we are what we are?

6. Interpreting the past.
Past times do affect the present. Are there things in our past - or present - that affect our future. What are they?

7. Designing social action.
If future can be interpreted, is it necessary for futurist to design social action so that the future x could be achieved.

8. Increasing democratic participation in designing future.
If future can be interpreted and our present deeds can be adjusted to make a better future, a task for futurists is to make sure, that the "better future" is not the "future of the elite".

9. Communicating and advocating a particular image of future.
If particular image of future has been "selected", a futurist must promote the chosen image; in short, "trying to mage image x happen".

While these Wendell Bell's "major tasks of futures studies" are - and should be - debatable, they show the wide range of futurists and thinks that are discussed within the science/art of futures studies.

Bell, Wendell: Foundations of Futures Studies - Human Science for a New Era, volumes 1 and 2 (Transaction Publishers 1997)

(note: these Wendell Bell's tasks are interpreted by me. The explanations under the bolded tasks are completely my own; bolded tasks are directly from Bell's book)

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