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A short history of FS

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Answers to an interview about the history of Futures Studies and esp. its relationship with technology forecasting.
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  I - The beginning of FS 1. The history of futures studies as a field began in the United States just after the WWII . It firstemerged in the military sector, particularly concerned by technological (atomic bomb) and aerospace(new role of aviation in warfare) forecasting; then some futures-oriented research groups wereformed in the 1950's, including the RAND Corporation who was involved, especially in years 60 and70, in the development of future-oriented approaches. 11. Technological forecasting was the first kind of foresight to grow in theU.S. in the period immediately following the end of WWII and the only one until the late 60s. It wascharacterized by the importance of quantitative data and the linearity of the approach. Herman KHAN’s scenario about the year 2000 had a significant impact on most Western countries.KHAN believed that mankind was living through a very important transition that would endaround the year 2000 when solutions were found to most basic problems of humanity such as: theavailability of natural resources and power supply for a growing populationand more housing, education and work. He claimed, with quantitative and historical evidences, thatthese problems would be solved through technology and described the future of France, Japan,Great Britain and USA. This approach has characterized American Futures Studies for a long period of time.   12. The creation of the RAND Corporation in 1944 was the last step of the process of institutionalization of FS that begun in 1944. That year, General ARNOLD (U.S. Air Force) asksthe scientist Theodor von Karman to list all kinds of technological breakthrough that could be of military value (Toward New Horizons, 1947).Building on the result (gas turbine, supersonicaircraft, intercontinental ballistic missiles), Arnold decides to establish a permanentbody to analyze and compare alternative choices in terms of defensepolicy. In 1948, the end of the partnership with Douglas Aircraft on the project RAND (dedicated tonon-land aspects of international conflicts, in 1946) gives him the opportunity. Thus the RAND Corp.is created in Los Angeles, with funding from the Ford Foundation. Its purpose is to guide the choicesrelated to defense policy and military technology.Initially the systematic investigation of the future was not a mission of the RAND solely devoted toquestions of "collective security", but it quickly became indispensable. Indeed, on one hand, militaryequipment might change dramatically in the next 20 years, hence the need to imagine whatthey might be, based on current trends in technical progress. On theother hand, it was also necessary to evaluate the benefits of these materials as related to the futureneeds in terms of security, which were not necessarily the same as the needs existing at the time of completion of the study. Then came reflections on the possible alternatives of the futureinternational context, particularly the behavior of world players such as the Soviets.   13 . Parallel to this approach, however, the social aspect of technology began to point out thanks tothe American Emilio Quincy DADDARIO (U.S. Congress) who coined theconcept of " technology assessment ", ie the analysis of social (societal) impact of technology. Heserved as Director of the Office of Technology Assessment in 1973. The concept became popular inthe countries of northern Europe, yet spreading very slowly in southern Europe.  2. This brings me back to France where the approach of the future was radically different . If theWWII was also the trigger of the development of FS in France, the intellectual context was verydifferent: while Americans enjoyed the confidence of the winners and conceive the future as a newfield to colonize, French intellectuals, among other EU scholars, felt like losers. Their countries wereruined and they were only too aware that, without the American help, they would have lost this war.The spirit was not to look at the futures to come but to act in order to build the desired future, evenagainst the trends. 21 . The Commissariat Général au Plan (National Agency for Planning) was created in 1946 to plan thereconstruction of the country but also to prepare the adequate policies through a collectivereflection on desirable futures. From this time on, the study of the future was intrinsically linked to the planning . The creation of the DATAR (Interministerial Delegation for TerritorialPlanning and Regional Attractiveness) in 1963 reinforced this orientation that is still very lively inurban planning and has given way to the emergence and development of territorial foresight.This specific approach results from the combination of two factors: the elaboration of a peculiarconcept of FS by a French scholar (cf. infra) and the Napoleonic Code. The latter is the French civilcode establishing a civil legal system and an administrative law. It embeds a code of urbanism withinwhich forecasting has been included as early as in 1954, as part of the process of Master Plan. Withthe increasing decentralization, forecasting as an exploratory approach gave way to foresight as anormative process. 22 . In 1957, Gaston BERGER, the inventor of the French foresight, published his founding articledefining this new discipline he named “prospective” 1 . His approach was the following: nobodyanticipated the events of the WWII, not only that France would lose but also that such atrocitieswould be perpetrated. The reason is that the future is unpredictable, due to indeterminism.Therefore, the only possible behavior towards the future is to shape it, not to forecast it. In order toavoid the errors of the past, we need new guidelines to build this future, adapted to the new worldthat we want to arise from the ruins of the war. Guidelines that ought to reflect our own vision of the future  – the f  uture we want. This is why the French ‘prospective’ is designed to serve action through decision-making, policy-design and flexible planning. 23 . This march toward the desired future can only be a collective one 2 . Various different alternativesare provided to the stakeholders to help to express the best way, according to them, to solve an anticipated problem. The normative ‘prospective’ is indeed the opposite process than the one driving KHAN to make scenario of the likely Year 2000. It is the fruit of a collective thinking about a chosenprocess of transformation. This approach has been made possible because critical philosophy is sodeveloped in the EU society, esp. in France and Germany with Jean- Paul SARTRE’s existentialism (1945) and Hans JONAS ’ imperative of responsibility (1979)   3. The conclusion to draw from this brief history is that two very different ways to look at the futurewere born after the WWII. 1 BERGER Gaston, « Sciences humaines et prévision ». La Revue des deux mondes , 1 er février 1957, pp. 3-12. 2 JOUVENEL Bertrand de,   L’art de la conjecture . Paris : SEDEIS, 1972, 385 pages, p. 10 (édition srcinale 1964).  In the American approach, determinism shapes the future and technology plays the role of the maindriver. The winner is one who is able to identify the threads and opportunities lying in that future,and to prepare himself to their happening, thanks to a better knowledge of his own strengths andweaknesses. Hence a vision of the future oriented to forecasting and strategy and the developmentof related methods such as Delphi and SWOT.In the French approach, indeterminism opens a large door to human shaping of the future. Accordingto Gaston BERGER, acceleration of history demands to peer as further as possible (in the future), asbroader as possible (to be able to define oneself by comparison) and to look in depth at the events to understand their real nature: these criteria became the first three pillars of the ‘prospective’. Further considerations brought him to consider that no study of the future would make sense without apreliminary reflection on the purposes. Thus three new pillars were added to the foundation of the ‘prospective’: 1) human being should be central to any future -oriented thinking, 2) only a collectivethinking can grasp the increasing complexity of the reality, and 3) the path to the progress demandsto take risks as new solutions are required.Wendel BELL 3 and Eleonora BARBIERI MASINI 4 have contributed to the world history of FS on abroader basis. This will usefully complete this rough historical description. II- Different periods 1. The first period would be the Beginnings, mid 50s- mid 60s. As I said above, this period was characterized by a real interest in the future  – from the Americanperspective as well as the European one. In America, the society was optimistic, confident in the future and willing to go ahead. Walt DISNEY’s amazing project — Experimental Prototype Communityof Tomorrow (EPCOT) — is the perfect i llustration of that period. DISNEY is quoted as saying: “EPCOT will take its cue from the new ideas and new technologies that are emerging from the forefront of American industry. It will be a community of tomorrow that will never be completed. It will always be showcasing and testing and demonstrating new materials and new systems” (1966). In Europe, this enthusiasm was limited to scholars and decision-makers that talked together in think-tanks like The International Center for Prospective (CIP). Population was still too much involved intrying to come back to a normal life (in France, restrictions on basic resources (food, clothing, etc.) lasted until 1958). Yet confidence in the future was strong enough to build Europe’s first institutions.   2. The second period would be the Chilling, mid-60s to 70s. During this period, three major events undermined this confidence: the Cold War (including Cubainvasion, the Viet-Nam war), the 1968 social revolts and 1973 Oil Crisis. In order to peer at the futurethrough this increasing chaos and to forecast the world growth, complex world models were elaborated such as those built on Jay W. FORRESTER’s system dynamics (1971), like the Latin American World Model (a.k.a. the Bariloche Model) in 1976. 3 BELL Wendell, Foundations of Futures Studies (vol. I, vol. II). New Brunswick : Transaction Publishers, 1997 4 BARBIERI MASINI Eleonora, Why Futures Studies?  . London: Grey Seal Books, 1993, 144 pages.  It was a time of mathematization of the future thinking to increase the accuracy of forecasting in aperiod of troubles. But, influenced by the Malthusian model, most of them predicted the worse tocome, such as the report from the Club of Roma The Limits To Growth (1972). The Oil Crisis and therelated budget cuts put a halt to this technocratic attempt to guess the future. However, the wormwas in the fruits: these models significantly contributed to draw a pessimistic image of the future,that John BRUNNER convincingly illustrated with his fictional book Stand on Zanzibar  (1968).The main associations of futurists were formed at that time, such as the American World FutureSociety (1968) and the European-born World Futures Studies Federation (1973). 3. The third period is the Crossing the desert. Nothing really happened during the 80s in the field, at least in Europe. The economic crisis broughtconcerns for the present and the very short-term; and long-term perspectives were lost. Confidencein the future has disappeared. The “no future” generation was about to emerge. Most of the ‘prospective’ units in the administration (ministries) and public sector were closed during this decade.I do not know enough of the recent history of US futures studies; but my feeling is that the 80s werelike a crossing the desert for America as well as for Europe.My feeling about America is that future thinking seems to have become completely static during thistime, as if FS have ‘sedimented’ themselves, using always the same traditional methods like theDelphi or the SWOT, with not much improvement. This is likely the reason why the nextbreakthrough in FS did not come from America but from Europe and the Indo-pacific area. 4. The fourth period: Foresight as a Renaissance41 . In France this period began at the end of the 80s, when the territorial ‘prospective’ emerged andspread. This approach is different from the corporate strategic ‘prospective’ 5 , as it involves a largernumber of stakeholders, requiring thus more participatory methods. The first major exercise (when ‘prospective’ become so participatory, we call it an exercise and no longer a study) was launched in 1987 ( Limousin 2007  ) and became the model to follow for a regional (sub-national level) foresight. Itwas followed by the development of urban foresight in France and its spreading in Europe during the90s 6 . Territorial foresight is now legally embedded in the Master Plan process imposed to FrenchRegions Authorities (SRADT) while cities are strongly encouraged to use it to elaborate their StrategicPlanning (SCOT). This model has been imported by most of the French-speaking countries and bysome Latin-American States like Colombia and Uruguay. 42 . A Pacific version of the French prospective appeared in the 60s when the Japanese Minister of Industry and Technology (MITI) decided to plan the development of the next technology according tothe discussions with a group of corporate decision-makers. This was the first exercise of the so-call ‘visioning’. This process runs until the 90s. 5 GODET Michel, Creating Futures. Scenario Planning as a Strategic Management Tool  , London: Economica,2001, 269 pages. 6 GOUX-BAUDIMENT Fabienne , PARRAD Frederique, Quand les villes pensent leurs futurs , Paris : 2001 Plus n° 64,Ministère de l'Equipement, 2004, 81 pages [When cities think their future]    In Germany and England, the period began in the early 90s when they imported the Japaneseconcept of technology foresight based on visioning. EU institutions played a significant role inpromoting technology foresight in Europe.A Worldwide Review of Foresight Institutions by Pacific Northwest Battelle National Laboratory forthe U.S. Department of Energy stated that “ For many of the cases, the focus was on science andtechnology - either as the sole subject of inquiry or as one of the main driving forces of the future.However the way this focus is expressed varies rather significantly across these various programs,with Japan representing one end of the spectrum (a focus on specific science and technologybreakthroughs with less direct attention to the broader social context) and with Australiarepresenting the other (a broad focus on defining social, political, and environmental needs of the future and determining how to influence science and technology to meet those needs)....”  In Australia, where there has been a strong development of FS 7 , Richard SLAUGHTER wrote theForesight Principle in 1995 8 . Here he defines Foresight as the "deliberate process of expandingawareness and understanding through futures scanning and the clarification of emergingsituations." 9 This human process is an extension of innate brain-environment perceptions. Four keyapplications of Foresight are "assessing possible consequences of actions, decisions . . . anticipatingproblems before they occur . . . considering the present implications of possible future events . . .[and] envisioning desired aspects of future societies." 10  These four criteria are exactly the same than those Gaston BERGER defined as pillars of the ‘prospective’ . Now we have come full circle, and foresight is the convergent point of this rich historyof FS.FGB(to be published in 2011) 7 MASINI, op. cit. 8 SLAUGHTER, Richard A. 1995. The Foresight Principle: Cultural Recovery in the 21 st  Century  . United States:Praeger. 9 SLAUGHTER. Ibid. xvii. 10  http://old.disinfo.com/archive/pages/article/id1728/pg1/index.html 
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