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Archive for the ‘Futures Thinking’ Category

After the Century of Isms: What is the Future of the Future?

Gerry Hassan

July 7th 2010

1. How Do We Think of the Future?

This talk is going to take us on a journey into the future, look at the idea of ‘story’ and ‘the official future’, what it is, why we are living in it, and the possible alternatives. In this it will draw on the work of two futures projects – Scotland 2020 (1) and Glasgow 2020 (2) – which I led working with the UK think tank Demos.

2. The Notion of Futurology

The conventional way of looking at the future can be found in the notion of futurology. The origins of this can be found in the evolution of military planning at the end of the Second World War and the early years of the Cold War. This came together in the establishment in the immediate post-war era of the RAND Corporation who gave birth to the modern idea of futurology. From this time – such futures concepts emerged as ‘the three Ps’ and ‘the W’: probable, possible and preferred futures, and the ‘wicked issues’; along with scenario planning (3).

It is not a surprise that this age gave us the modern idea of futures thinking in the heart of the American military-industrial complex: for this was the greatest constellation of power the world had ever seen which had embraced mass production and ‘total war’ to defeat alongside the Soviets the Nazi and Japanese war machines. This period also gave us from futures thinking such ideas which appear in everyday life as ‘the war room’ and ‘the think tank’.

Futurology has become one of the languages of the world’s elites: of governments, corporates like BP and Shell, and the rich and powerful. This has made it more and more problematic, along with the democratising effect of the internet. This has begun to be noticed even in the mainstream by ‘The Economist’ who have stated ‘futurology as we knew it 30 or 40 years ago … is all but dead.’ Instead, futurists ‘have stopped claiming to predict what ‘will’ happen. They say that they ‘tell stories’ about what might happen’  (4). Read the rest of this entry »

The Power of Story and Hope Continued

Gerry Hassan

December 9th 2009

A beautiful piece by Libby Brooks in ‘The Guardian’ today on the wonderful work of the Galgael Trust in Govan who build astounding boats – Gaelic longboats or birlinns – and use this to aid young men and women refinding traditional skills, hope and exploring the waterways of the river Clyde (1).

Her article also has a very positive mention of my Glasgow 2020 project, coming up for two and half years after it concluded its activities. She states talking about the work and conclusions of Glasgow 2020 that ‘if a sense of history is about a grasp of narrative and one’s place in it, this can only assist us in imagining the future’. The project found that ‘inhabitants of some of the most deprived areas continued to tell stories of optimism for the future of their families, friends and neighbourhoods’. She concludes, ‘The true legacy of history can be hope’. Read the rest of this entry »

The City of Hope:
The first step to a better future is imagining one

Gerry Hassan

The Point, November 2nd 2008

Hope is not ignoring … the challenges that stand between you and your dreams. Hope is imagining, and then fighting for, and then working for, struggling for what did not seem possible before.

Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope

Thinking of the future is one of the characteristics of being human. It can be seen in the visions of the future of H. G. Wells, Aldous Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’, George Orwell’s ‘1984’ and films such as Tom Cruise’s ‘Minority Report’.

Another way of imagining the future has been provided by government, corporates and public institutions who have used what is called  ‘futurology’ and scenario building and planning to assess how the world will look from the interests of these elites.

In the last couple of years I have led two major futures projects, Scotland 2020 and Glasgow 2020, which aspired to widen the conversation about the future and nurture and develop different ways of imagining the future. This was both a process and an end point – in democratising the future. Read the rest of this entry »

The Dreaming City: The First Step To A Better World Is Imagining One

Gerry Hassan

Soundings: A Journal of Politics and Culture ‘Tales of the City’ Special Issue WInter 2007

Thinking of the future is one of the characteristics of being human through the ages and different societies. Imagining different worlds can be seen in the novels of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne and in the modernist visions of films such as Metropolis and Minority Report with their urban utopian/distopian worlds of flying cars and isolated individuals.

However, these powerful public images are far removed from the world of institutional futures thinking, commonly known as futurology. This began with the establishment of the RAND Corporation in 1946 which focused on issues such as how the Americans could win a limited nuclear war, Mutually Assured Destruction and the missile gap between the US and Soviets. This narrow, technocratic world has seen the powerful forces who run the world: governments, transnationals, international agencies, engage in scenario planning ….. Read the rest of this entry »

Glasgow 2020: Final Project Paper

Gerry Hassan, Melissa Mean and Charlie Tims

Glasgow 2020, a ‘project of mass imagination’ – which  shows how new media, and community outreach, could be combined to generate and sustain this new culture of seriousness.

Pat Kane, The Democratic Interact, 2007

1. Introduction
This project paper covers the following areas:

•    The idea of ‘the official future’
•    The importance of story
•    Learning from the process
•    Learning from the content
•    Glasgow possible futures
•    Assemblies of hope
•    Lessons for public agencies
•    Dissemination Read the rest of this entry »

Gerry Hassan is a writer, commentator and thinker about Scotland, the UK, politics and ideas. more >
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