Earlier Work: Futures

This section contains earlier futures work from the 1980s and 1990s.

Assessing the QUEST for future knowledge (1990)

This paper discusses the QUEST technique, pioneered by Professor Nanus and Dr. Selwyn Enzer in the early 1980s. Since that time, QUEST has been taken up and applied by many people in a number of countries, including Australia and New Zealand. Several versions of the basic approach now exist, and the paper explains why I expect this process to continue. My intention is to provide a critical overview and to comment upon the significance and possible future evolution of this technique in relation to forecasting and the futures field. It appears to incorporate a shift of perception which may be of fundamental importance to the field as a whole. (Read more…)

Changing images of futures in the 20th century (1991)

The 20th century has seen a rise in dystopian images of futures and an apparent decline in imaging capacity. The article considers responses to this ‘imaging dilemma’. They include critique, futures workshops, accessing cultural resources, renegotiating aspects of a worldview and ‘image-ining’ a different historical dynamic. It concludes that there is a substantive basis for informed optimism and empowerment. The keys to each lie in the nature of human responses to what is desired or feared. (Read more…)

Promise of the twenty-first century (1992)

The end of one millennium and the prospect of another to follow is not merely symbolic; it provides us with an opportunity to take stock and consider our position. Why are such turning points important? They reflect two powerful aspects of our reality. One is the capacity (even the need) of the human mind to range at will over time past, present and future. The other is the fact of our interconnectedness with all things past and future. (Read more…)

Why we should care for future generations now (1994)

This paper argues that caring for future generations is a legitimate ethical concern that arises from our common humanity. The first section explores several reasons why this extension of concern is appropriate and desirable. The second considers a number of strategies for accomplishing this goal. It is argued that caring for future generations now has a number of ‘win-win’ outcomes since it has positive implications for the well being of present generations as well. (Read more…)

Cultural reconstruction in the ‘post-modern’ world (1995)

How can one reconstruct a culture? After all, we have seen the decline of certainty during the present century and the rise of various perspectives that have greatly complicated our view of the world. The idea of cultural reconstruction can all too easily suggest a kind of hubris that is unjustified in post-modern conditions. The construction metaphor itself implies a tangible subject and an assumption of control that may seem inappropriate in this context. So why use it? This is a good time to remind ourselves of the active role of humans in shaping their present and future. If there is a central idea underlying the foresight principle, it is that humans are creators of culture, makers of meaning, conscious agents in the social/historical process. (Read more)

Long term thinking and the politics of reconceptualisation (1996)

This essay is a response to the dominance of short-term thinking in Western culture. It begins with a critique of the minimal, or fleeting, present and then explores some possibilities for extending what might be meant by ‘the present’. It suggests that considerable utility may be derived from a more careful and considered use of particular time frames. It is doubtful if questions of sustainability, the rights of future generations and, indeed, the disciplined study of futures can be resolved without a number of innovations based on long-term thinking. (Read more…)

Futures beyond dystopia (1998)

The speculative imagination is an higher-order human capacity that can productively explore the not-here and the not-yet. To some extent it is already doing so. But these explorations are limited by prevailing cultural assumptions. The purpose of this paper is to suggest that there are other arenas to explore that, if they were taken seriously, could exert sufficient ‘pull’ to qualify as desirable images of futures. They could then begin to act as ‘magnets’ for the realisation of possibilities that are currently obscured. (Read more)

Creating and sustaining second-generation institutions of foresight (1999)

Institutions of Foresight (IOFs) are purpose-built organisations that focus on one or another aspect of futures work. Depending on definitions there are, perhaps, several hundred around the world. Some of these are fully viable, while others no longer exist. The paper suggests that both successes and failures provide useful pointers for creating and sustaining second-generation IOFs. In particular, the paper considers some implications of the Australian Commission for the Future (CFF). It looks back at the 12 years of its existence, attempts to summarise its achievements, and then suggests some lessons, or broad design principles, that may be useful to other such initiativesaround the world. (Read more…)

Personal agenda for the 21st century (2000)

The 21st century looks as though it will be a ‘make’ or ‘break’ time for humanity. Present trends do not encourage optimism. But there are many ways in which humans can act to develop foresight and to ‘steer’ toward more consciously-chosen futures. The paper considers ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ threats to humanity and to an emerging ‘congruence of insight’ about how we might respond. There is a need for many more voices to enter this ‘futures conversation’. (Read more…)