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Skip to 0 minutes and 7 seconds Description and definition of future studies, naturally as a still-evolving field of study practiced by many people from various disciplines, there are bound to be various versions, various ways, of defining future studies– also known, by the way, as futurology. And as in most disciplines, these definitions differ from person to person. But some of the common ingredients of a definition include words such as future studies is an interdisciplinary field. Now that means that a futurist doesn’t only look at one particular walk of life. We need to take a look at the world of, amongst others, economics. And we need to take on board what’s happening in the world of politics. And we need to analyze technology, technological developments. Social issues are crucial.

Skip to 1 minute and 1 second And social issues contain a great deal. Social includes anything from population size, population growth, population age, urbanization, health, education, crime, family values. We also need to take on board what’s happening in the world of natural resources, our physical environment. So it’s interdisciplinary in the sense that it’s not confined to any one particular area of expertise. In fact, many futurists come from different kinds of backgrounds. A historian might turn out to be a good futurist. Architects might be good futurists. There’s no one particular academic background that lends itself to becoming a futurist better than any other one. That’s the first point. Future studies is by it’s very nature interdisciplinary.

Skip to 1 minute and 53 seconds Then we look at the different disciplines, mix them, marry them in order to study yesterday. That might sound a bit odd. But we first need to understand the past before we can start reflecting upon the future. And in particular, we need to understand changes of both yesterday and today, and then use various tools to try to establish how those changes might be different in the future, or how the changes might be perpetuated in the future. And in that way, we explore trends, examine trends with a view towards describing the future, or more importantly, describing futures– very important. We should emphasize the plural. There’s no one particular future. There are a number of possible futures. So how do we do this?

Skip to 2 minutes and 42 seconds We look at various bits of data,as much of this data possible. We try to identify patterns. Very importantly, we try to find and look for causes of change and linkages between these patterns and these data. And then as I said a bit earlier, based on that, we try to map different kinds of futures.

Skip to 3 minutes and 5 seconds Future studies is very closely linked to what We also call strategic foresight. And very open, future studies, futures research is employed by the users to try to guide and influence and mold their strategic planning for some future event. A very well-known tool used in future studies, one we shall be talking about later on in this course, is of course that of scenarios. Throughout, we make a number of assumptions, one of which is– and we’ll talk about this in a later theme, later unit– is that we cannot necessarily predict the future. We can however, gain more knowledge about future changes.

Skip to 3 minutes and 48 seconds In my own words, I have discovered looking at many organizations, that organizations tend to either be very nervous about the future, and they try to avoid thinking about it. They get stuck in some kind of comfort zone. Or some are more proactive, and they seriously want to explore how the future may unfold.

Description and definition of future studies

Future studies, also called futurology, is an interdisciplinary field. This video explains how we can consider economics, politics, technology, and social issues.

Does your organisation make use of futurology and in which context is it most relevant?

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This video is from the free online course:

Futurism and Business: Dealing with Complexity

University of Stellenbosch Business School Executive Development