From Futures to Foresight


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How Foresight Programmes have emerged from futures studies more generally

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From Futures to Foresight

  1. 1. Foresight: then and now (From Futures to Foresight) Ian Miles PREST/IoIR University of Manchester
  2. 2. Overview <ul><li>The discovery of the future </li></ul><ul><li>Technology futures and science policy </li></ul><ul><li>Innovation research and futures studies </li></ul><ul><li>Technology Foresight </li></ul><ul><li>Fragmentation or Ferment? </li></ul>FS F IS
  3. 3. Imagining a Better World Holbein From UTOPIA (1516) to the NEW ATLANTIS (1627) protoFS protoFS proto IS
  4. 4. Transforming the World Through Scientific Revolutions <ul><li>Assumed complementarity of technological progress and social betterment </li></ul><ul><li>From More to more…. Satisfying needs and expanding desires </li></ul><ul><li>Scientific elite as critical agents </li></ul><ul><li>Progress displaced through space rather than time </li></ul><ul><li>(odd bits of forecasting, eg Petty on population trends – linked to birth of statistics) </li></ul>
  5. 5. The Discovery of the Future <ul><li>C19th Industrial Revolution – but also social and political upsurge. The future could, would be different </li></ul><ul><li>… Not in Utopia, subterranean Fields, Or some secreted Island, heaven knows where! But in the very world, which is the world Of all of us,--the place where in the end We find our happiness, or not at all! </li></ul><ul><li>William Wordsworth, 1805 “French Revolution, as it Appeared to Enthusiasts at its Commencement” </li></ul>
  6. 6. Fiction and the Future <ul><li>Lyman Tower Sargent, 1976, ‘Themes in Utopian Fiction in English before Wells’, Science Fiction Studies, 3 (3), pp275-82 </li></ul><ul><li>Darko Suvin , 1983, Victorian Science Fiction in the UK: The Discourses of Knowledge and of Power. Boston: G.K. Hall </li></ul><ul><li>I F Clarke, The Pattern of Expectation , Voices Prophesying War , etc…. </li></ul>protoFS
  7. 7. Fiction and the Future <ul><li>Mercier’s L’An 2440 published in France 1771 (UK 1772) – innovations and megaprojects help signify future </li></ul><ul><li>Sargent, English-language Utopias: 8 in C16 th , 60 in C17 th and 18 th , 300+ in C19th </li></ul><ul><li>I F Clarke, The Pattern of Expectation , Voices Prophesying War , etc…. </li></ul><ul><li>future wars in fiction </li></ul><ul><li>Science fiction with educational and didactic missions (Verne, Wells) </li></ul>protoFS
  8. 8. Utopians vs Utopia (or industrial utopia) <ul><li>Luddism and Pandemonium – technological change inescapable, but not always welcomed. </li></ul><ul><li>Political economists asked big questions, took long views </li></ul><ul><li>Change became assumed attribute of future (but Morris, Butler, technodystopias) </li></ul><ul><li>Marx – no recipes for the cookshops of the future </li></ul><ul><li>But scientific socialism: tended to identify technological change (growth in means of production will undermine obsolete relations of production) </li></ul>
  9. 9. Futures Studies – beyond Political Economy <ul><li>According to Clarke, dozens of “futures” books in 1890s and early 1900s, starting with Richet, 1892, Dans Cent Ans </li></ul><ul><li>highlights include – </li></ul><ul><li>1897, Gottleib, The War of the Future in its Technical, Economic and Political Relations </li></ul><ul><li>Collections by Edmund Carpenter in USA (social) H G Wells in UK ( Anticipations of the reactions of mechanical and scientific progress upon human life and thought ) round turn of century. Wells in 1902 articulated call for systematic study of future in The Discovery of the Future </li></ul><ul><li>Postwar: Kegan Paul Today and Tomorrow series (inc Haldane’s Daedalus 1924) both social and technological “genius forecasts” </li></ul>FS First World War – shattered many illusions of progress, delegitimised political elites
  10. 10. Wanted! Professors of Foresight <ul><li>“ It seems an odd thing to me that though we have thousands and thousands of professors and hundreds of thousands of students of history working upon the records of the past, there is not a single person anywhere who makes a whole-time job of estimating the future consequences of new inventions and new devices . There is not a single Professor of Foresight in the world.” H G Wells (1932) </li></ul>FS
  11. 11. (Technological) Forecasting <ul><li>Technology multifaceted – decreasing scope for “genius” forecasts a la Haldane </li></ul><ul><li>1930s crisis – US National Resources Committee – Recent Social Trends – William Ogburn and colleagues – social indicators, social forecasting, implications of agricultural technology – subMarxian model of technological change -Gilfillan and technological forecasting. Basic extrapolative techniques. </li></ul><ul><li>Military and aerospace forecasting: RAND, NASA, etc: methodological development – Delphi, systems analysis, scenarios. </li></ul>FS
  12. 12. The Visible College* <ul><li>Socialists tended to identify technological progress with social progress – current or deferred </li></ul><ul><li>In major crisis many scientists drawn to socialism </li></ul><ul><li>Haldane in 1920s: “ &quot;If we are to control our own and one another's actions as we are learning to control nature, the scientific point of view must come out of the laboratory and be applied to the events of daily life. It is foolish to think that the outlook which has already revolutionized industry, agriculture, war and medicine will prove useless when applied to the family, the nation, or the human race.&quot; </li></ul><ul><li>Scientific planning and science policy seen as close cousins -> (esp with WW2 applications of OR and statistics to decision making). Bernal inspiration </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li> * cf Gary Werskey’s book </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul>protoIS
  13. 13. From Science Policy to Innovation Studies <ul><li>Bernal inspiration </li></ul><ul><li>de Solla Price in US, Science Policy Research in UK…. </li></ul><ul><li>Innovation studies emerge – politically plural, but attractive to UK left (critique of capitalists if not of capitalism; alternative explanations for UK economic and technological problems – not organised labour, but disorganised management (cf PANTS). </li></ul><ul><li>Critique of (some) innovation – from Bernal (50s) through new left (60s), feminists (70s), greens (80s)… </li></ul>IS
  14. 14. The Techno-optimistic Future <ul><li>US Commissions… </li></ul><ul><li>US framework of technological change (long-term multifold trend), post-industrialism, “end of ideoloogy”, etc </li></ul><ul><li>Kahn crystallised “futurology” with books like Thinking about the Unthinkable and the less military-focused Things to Come (1972) etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Recrudescence of ideology, global tensions </li></ul><ul><li>Nuclear technology (and eugenics?) further destabilised assumption of automatic complementarity of scientific/technological and social/moral progress. </li></ul>FS
  15. 15. The Futures Movement <ul><li>1960s: futures studies took off very widely – centres, associations, consultancies formed, large-scale projects launched. Think tanks and expert groups; indicators and models. </li></ul><ul><li>European futures partly emulated US techno-optimistic models, but in large part focused more on political uncertainties and strategies – a “third way” – as earlier articulated by Jungk, Galtung, and in France Berger, de Jouvenel… and many more) </li></ul><ul><li>Limited uptake in UK: scepticism – Peculiarities of the English?? </li></ul><ul><li>Fairly rare to find bottom-up, participatory approaches (some radicals, some corporate, and la prospective) </li></ul>FS
  16. 16. Limits to Futures <ul><li>Futures debate – (population) Malthusians vs techno-optimists, (development) Marxists, structuralists, conservative economists </li></ul><ul><li>Club of Rome intervention 1970s (see Peter Moll From Scarcity to Sustainability 1991, Peter Lang) </li></ul><ul><li>HUGE media impact </li></ul>FS
  17. 17. Thinking about Models <ul><li>SPRU critique of Limits – Thinking about the Future (UK) or Models of Doom (US). (not MWAC ) </li></ul><ul><li>Faulted data, analysis and methods on many points, but especially the lack of any notion of technological innovation as able to confront resource shortages (or tackle pollution). </li></ul><ul><li>Raised many questions of ecology, equity, etc. </li></ul>Resources population Food per capita Industrial production per capita
  18. 18. Beyond Limits <ul><li>SPRU researchers went on to review futures methods ( Art of Anticipation ) </li></ul><ul><li>Review the world futures debate and prepare a major intervention of their own (Freeman and Jahoda, World Futures: the Great Debate ) – radically alternative scenarios – possibility of growth and more equity </li></ul><ul><li>Generate a series of futures studies (eg. Worlds Apart ), critiques of the field ( Luxury of Despair) , social and policy analyses of FS ( Uses and Abuses of Forecasting ) </li></ul><ul><li>“ something in the water at Sussex” </li></ul>FS IS
  19. 19. Innovation Systems Analysis <ul><li>Technological revolutions (and long waves)  Technology / Technoeconomic Paradigms  Sociotechnical Systems ( Gershuny reappraisal of postindustrial society; IT futures studies…) </li></ul><ul><li>Systemic sectoral varieties (Pavitt taxonomy, UK performance) </li></ul><ul><li>“ Systems of innovation” approaches – national systems and their weaknesses…. The Japanese model (Freeman formulations 87/88 but Lundvall in SPRU 83/84) … </li></ul>IS
  20. 20. Innovation Policy <ul><li>S&T policy: inadequacies of linear model </li></ul><ul><li>Public sector constraints (fiscal crisis of state, rise of neoconservativism) IT revolution: strategic research </li></ul><ul><li>Shortcomings of funding system </li></ul><ul><li>Search for new decision-making tools – ACARD and other reports on selecting critical technologies, promising areas of science, etc. </li></ul>IS
  21. 21. Toward Foresight <ul><li>1984: Irvine and Martin’s first book Foresight in Science (strong impression from Japanese experience… which had Nipponised US futures studies methods and applied them to Research Policy) </li></ul><ul><li>Picking the Winners - Oops! </li></ul><ul><li>Other battles being fought… </li></ul><ul><li>Martin & Irvine 1989 Research Foresight … more studies and then... </li></ul>FS F IS
  22. 22. UK Foresight Programme – “First Cycle” <ul><li>Several 1990s efforts to determine critical technologies (involving SPRU, PREST and consultancies): this approach has been pursued in US and France, in particular. </li></ul><ul><li>1993 White Paper : improve connection between science base & wealth creation + quality of life. Foresight a major instrument. </li></ul><ul><li>Specific goals: to inform priorities (planning) & promote “Foresight culture” of forward and longer term thinking “beyond the business plan” (futures, networking) </li></ul><ul><li>Initiatives in several other countries mid 90s </li></ul>FS F IS
  23. 23. UK (Technology) Foresight 1 Ben Martin on Steering Committee: undertook review of other Programmes; PREST undertook much methodological work (delphi, other surveys, panel training…) Innovation studies communities engaged <ul><li>Accessing dispersed knowledge, sharing it through futures </li></ul><ul><li>Informing R&D priorities </li></ul><ul><li>Networking (wiring up innovation system) </li></ul>Widely viewed as major success FS F IS
  24. 24. UK (Technology) Foresight 2 Focus on networking and creating knowledge communities No overall priority-setting Much work on thematic and more “social” issues Problems of ownership in OST, DTI Crisis rapidly set in: review and early termination FS F … . IS
  25. 25. UK (Technology) Foresight 3 More modest, project-based work No overall prioritisation Primary aim is now informing policy, trans- departmentally: enhancing the role of science. Little effort to rewire innovation system. Most other countries following (diluted) F1 model, though some are more project-based FS F … . IS
  26. 26. UK (Technology) Foresight 1 – “Fully-Fledged Foresight”? Networking PROSPECTIVES Futures reports, scenarios, forecasts and visions Futures methods, forecasting techniques, modelling & visionary approaches, etc. PLANNING Priority lists, Strategic action plans Planning tools and techniques, OR and systems approaches, etc . PARTICIPATION Access to distributed knowledge, establishing and reinforcing networks Networking tools and techniques, groupwork and facilitation, survey approaches, etc Foresight FS F IS Informing and legitimising action, establishing preparedness Sharing visions. Exchanging knowledge, mutual understanding... Identifying indicators & determining goals, evaluation processes & mechanisms
  27. 27. Participative Elements enlarging the knowledge base Democracy – engaging Transition Management – Technocracy – stakeholders opening dialogue enlisting agents in visioning, action
  28. 28. UKF has evolved <ul><li>From prioritisation + networking </li></ul><ul><li>Through strong networking focus </li></ul><ul><li>To policy-informing projects. </li></ul><ul><li>(Leaving gaps in participation and prioritisation?) </li></ul><ul><li>Design and implementation has become more remote from innovation studies constituency </li></ul>FS F … . IS
  29. 29. Foresight on Foresight <ul><li>UK F 3 is well-received, current strategy will be continued </li></ul><ul><li>Embedding Foresight in government departments will be a patchy affair, especially as some revert to “futures studies”, “horizon scanning”, etc. (varying foci and probably very uneven results) </li></ul><ul><li>Need for overall prioritisation will result in new initiatives (sooner or later) </li></ul><ul><li>Space for TA and participative approaches… </li></ul><ul><li>… Tensions between expertise, advanced methodology, and needs for networking and engagement. (especially with emergent technologies) – acute issue. </li></ul><ul><li>Roles for innovation researchers to be proactive as well as responsive. </li></ul><ul><li>Foresight reminds us to take the longer view: and don’t forget the wider ones! </li></ul>FS & IS More sweet music ?
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