New, Better Human Beings? The Role of Values in Futures Studies


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Master's Degree course in Futures studies, dia set no. 2

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New, Better Human Beings? The Role of Values in Futures Studies

  1. 1. NEW, BETTER HUMAN BEINGS? 2. The Role of Values in Futures Studies Anita Rubin
  2. 2. Three dimensions in approaching the future Futures is composed of (at least) three dimensions which we can explore and which are dependent on each other: 1. The level of predictability • How probable it is that the thing predicted will take place in the future? 2. Transformability • What in the future is under our influence? How do we influence it? (the closer the thing under our consideration is to human activity, society, etc., the more we can influence it. Vice versa, the closer the thing is to ”nature”, i.e., the laws of Nature, or other predetermined phenomena, the less we can do about it.  The development of technology to answer our needs to control and rule the nature and its laws. 3. Desirability • Consideration of values in relation to society, the individual, identity, tradition, habits, history and culture.
  3. 3. Ossip Flechtheim’s Futurology Flechtheim (1943) believed that the meaning of the new science, Futurology, is to affect so that the future will be better than the past and the present: the problems visible today will be solved and new solutions can be built on the grounds of the courses of development, which become visible through scientific investigation. Therefore, with the help of Futurology people can • prevent wars; • eliminate hunger and misery in the world; • fight against exploitation; • democratize society; • stop the exploitation of nature, and • struggle against alienation. This is the way to gradually create Homo Humanus, the new and better human being. 3
  4. 4. Flechtheim’s main insights The four basic insights of Ossip Flechtheim’s Futurology: • Understanding that some problems are global; • Complexity and the systemic worldview (so that none of such problems can be solved by merely concentrating and fixing one or some of its parts); • The future can be affected by understanding the present; • Moral and ethical view, normativity in research (making the world a better place)  Problematique (Club of Rome) 4
  5. 5. Predictability from the values point of view How probable is that a certain thing will happen or a state of affairs (be it positive or negative) will be true in the future? ➔ Predictions, forecasts, trends, measures, scenarios, etc.  strategic work etc. To which amount it altogether is possible to gain information about the future? Power relations (i.e., whose future/image of the future is the one which will be taken as the goal?), democracy How trustworthy, adequate, and useful is the knowledge/information we attach to the future?  reliability and validity ➔ Supporting decision-making Controlling the future with futures knowledge ➔ negative control: to prevent something unwanted from happening  reactivity ➔ positive control: to act so that the desirable thing happens  proactivity
  6. 6. The transformability of possible futures How much the things which have already happened (and which happen now) determine that what can happen in the future? ➔ How much the future we desire is tied to things to which we cannot affect (i.e., natural Laws, etc.)  technology What are the premised which determine the future that actually will happen? ➔ Can one affect those and/or change the starting points? If so, then how? ➔ Weak signals and wild cards ➔ Coincidence, the uncertainty of social transition, the systemic nature of processes and influences and the unexpected consequences and their combinations, human miscalculations, changes in expectations, etc. ➔ Temporal and spatial distance (futures-related shortsightedness vs. hyperopia…)
  7. 7. The desirability of possible futures Consideration of values in relation to society, the individual, identity, traditions, his-/herstory, culture, etc. • Globalisation and the increasing heterogeneity of society (bringing about ethnic, religious, cultural, and historical conflicts) create problems which are new by nature  challenge to futures studies Images of the future: whose (or which reference group’s) idea about the desirable future will become dominant in society  strategies to make it come true  the growing importance of politics • The inner conflics in the images of the future • Conflics between the images of the future held by different social actors The social and economic safety and certainty vs. the veracity of futures knowledge  challenge to the ethics of a futurist (see Bell)
  8. 8. When choosing the alternatives… …the desirability/non-desirability of alternative futures vs. their probability creates internal tension in futures studies  The need of discussion about the values (the utopy of one may be a dystopy to the other , while both miss the self critical point of view introduced by Eleonora Masini)  The two most used and useful dimensions in Delphi studies
  9. 9. Mannermaa (1993): technocratic and humanistic futures studies Technocratic futures studies: • Drive for scientific accuracy (in a positive meaning); • Drive for objectivity  reductionism (information is gained by breaking the object of study into smaller pieces/components); • Future seen as the direct continuum of the past (”BAU, Business as Usual) • Quantitative research, matemathical accuracy, modelling, trends  ”predictions”, the most probable course of events; • Self-evident and unquestioned of values/value objectives  lack of value discussion; • Predominant especially from the 1950s to 1970s
  10. 10. Technocratic and humanistic futures studies (cont.) Humanistic futures studies (from 1960’s on): • Emphasis on the subjectivity (mind and emotion-relatedness) of phenomena  acceptance of the subjective perspective; • At the cost of (or at least together with) accurate matemathical prediction, the research emphasizes the non-scientific nature of knowledge and ”making the future happen”; • Many possible futures, alternative futures  scenario thinking • Qualitative research approach, systems thinking, complexity, the chaos theory, ecological awareness, etc. • Questioning the value goals and criteria of development; also research concentrating on exactly that (esp. critical futures studies and the CLA); • Futures studies as the means to increase communication and understanding in the processes of coming development (strategy work, social/community-based, empowering methods like eg. Jungk’s futures workshops);
  11. 11. The knowledge interests of futures studies Technical knowledge interest Research problem Critical knowledge interest Intuition Lähde: P. Kyrö, 11 Practical, interpretative(herme neutical) knowledge interest
  12. 12. Technical knowledge interest Searches information which can be used to explain the study object and/or control its behaviour and action in its natural environment. Methods in FS: Empirical and experimental data collection and analysis; trend analyses and extrapolations; statistical methods, modelling; scenario techniques (e.g. Godet); laboratory methods, etc. Goal: Technical implementation (accuracy). The value starting point of research: objectivity, value neutrality. Study on values: The choices of the actor are seen as dependent on how the exact information, gained from the past and present courses of development, reflects on the possible futures. This process of choice is seen as a separate whole from the study and analysis of the possible futures. The responsibility of the choice process is completely left in the hands of the actor who is also expected to use his/her values in that process. Answer is sought to • What are the probable and alternative futures of this study problem/phenomenon, based on the courses of development visible at present? • 12 Is there a problem attached to it? If yes, how can it be solved?
  13. 13. Practical (interpretative, hermeneuttical) Knowledge interest Aims at understanding the research problem from a humanistic point of view. Methods in FS: interpretative methods of data collection and analysis, e.g. Analysis of images of the future, value analyses, SSM (soft systems methodology), Delphi, scenario methods such as Futures Table, etc. Goal and values: the meaning of the phenomenon; the reasons of the choices and behaviour of the actors, expectations, values and preferences. Information attached to the values of the research problem is sought concentrating on the differences of interpretations and practices. The value basis of research: pluralism,equality of different interpretations Answer is sought to • How we can gain a wider understanding on the futures-related phenomenon/thing under study? • What are the different interpretations/understanding on this study object like? 13
  14. 14. Critical knowledge interest Concentrates on the phenomena behind subjective concepts, perceptions, and ideas (power relations, political and social reasons behind choices, non-verbal prejudices, needs, expectations, etc.) Methods in FS: CLA (Causal Layered Analysis), action research, scenario workshops, sometimes Delphi The value starting point of research: Emancipation from conventional judgements and accustomed thinking so that freshviewponts can be found and new possibilities could open up. Normativity. Goal: change, development Answer is sought to: • • 14 How we can emancipate ourselves from presuppositions and inbuilt or absorbed beliefs which are partly unconscious by nature? How can we genuinely open new futures possibilities?
  15. 15. The knowledge interest based on intuition and imagination Is based on the personal, subjective emotions, experience, knowledge and know-how, gifts, tacit nowledge, language, values, culture, etc. Methods in FS: all The value starting point of research: The conception that all information (also scientific) is basically grounded on intuition and since it is subjective by nature it also is therefore based on values. Goal: Creative by nature, works as ”glue” behind all the three other knowledge interests. Answer is sought to: • 15 How can we use our imagination and creativity in a courageous and inventive way in understanding, opening and describing the futures possibilities?
  16. 16. The three types of imagination Logical imagination • Extrapolation of present trends • • Critique  space for new thoughts Reveals what is wrong Critical imagination • Looks for constructive weaknesses in the present state of things  creates a frame of reference to alternative futures • Reveals why things are wrong Creative imagination • • 16 Brings forth completely new things. Is radically detached from the existing thinking and the conceptual world  opens the way to something completely new to happen.
  17. 17. Utopias and dystopias From Plato to Thomas More, from Francis Bacon to the utopists of the 1800s and the present day science fiction… The character of utopia and dystopia: • The image of the future (or scenario) is built based on the present. • By nature, both are always critiques of the present situation: Utopia: all that is seen to be wrong or dissatisfactory here and now is described as fixed in the utopia  critique is targeted at the present (incompetent decision-makers, bad attitudes, wrong or unjust laws, etc.) Dystopia: all that is now (or sometimes was in the specified past) seen as good is bad in the dystopian future  critique is targeted at the plans and expectations (of those who have the power).
  18. 18. Visionary thinking The knowledge base lies on all the four knowledge interests and on utopia/dystopia dichotomy  making the utopia to come true Combines the knowledge gained through research to the creation of the best possible image of the future (based on that research) and to its actual realization.  E.g. strategy projects, foresight projects, etc.
  19. 19. The criteria of value judgements To be valid, a value assertion (=a claim with a part that indicates a state of something, and another part, or sentence, which gives grounds to that) has to fulfil five criteria by Keekok Lee. The first part of that claim is descriptive and gives a statement of something that “ought to” or “should” be in a certain way. The second part, the “because” part then says why. For example: Today we should wear raincoats when we go outside, because the weather is bad and because we can catch a cold. 19
  20. 20. Keekok Lee’s Epistemic Implication Model: the five criteria for value judgements In order to the evidence required to support or falsify an assertion, the descriptive elements of value judgements 1. Should have serious evidence: • The value judgements is true, if it is supported by sufficient serious external and empirical evidence (i.e., not merely a subjective opinion, but it has to have independent proof, truly scientific evidence). • Example: People ought not to smoke, because it increases their chance to get a lung cancer. 2. Evidence should be referentially relevant: • The assertion and the reasons for it must deal the same issue. • Example: My nephew should go back to school and get his highschool diploma, because the highschool diploma would help him to get a job.
  21. 21. Keekok Lee’s Epistemic Implication Model: the five criteria for value judgements (cont.) 3. Causally relevant evidence: • There has to be a causal link between the assertation and the proof. • Example: The living room should be painted, because its walls have become shabby. 4. Causal independence • The evidence is not valid if it is produced by the conclusion itself  self-fulfilling prophecy. • Example: People ought not to smoke, because it increases their chance to get a lung cancer (smoking comes before cancer). The evidence should come after the original claim (one-way cause and effect) 5. Empirical test • The claim has to be scientifically tested (objectively relevant try to falsify the claim) (Keekok Lee)
  22. 22. Researching values in futures studies 1. Hermeneutical and practical futures studies: • Delphi (e.g. experts’ ideas/opinions of value change) • Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) (e.g .the analysis of the social/organizational culture and actions which prevent or block it from developing; methods CATWOE and ACTVOD) • Scenario methods (e.g. futures table  the choice of variables in it) • Futures workshops (e.g. as a tool to create a strategy; see Visionary leadership) 2. Critical futures studies • Causal Layered Analysis (CLA) (e.g. revealing the hidden values and world views)