To have the future we want, we need to imagine it

Professionals in the business of forecasting and developing future scenarios ultimately agree that predicting the future is an uncertain, hit or miss practice, despite the increasingly large "big data" collection and sophisticated analytic programs and methods available today. The complexity of a rapidly globalizing world confronts us with "wicked problems", "black swans" and an accelerating pace of technology innovation with yet unknown impacts and consequences.

How do we imagine the future?

How do you imagine the future? This ISF video highlights the need for imagining positive, sustainable futures -- plausible near future transitions beyond our current evolutionary bottleneck of wicked problems and crises. Daily bombardment of bad news about threats of political and racial violence, superviruses, global warming and species extinction have led to pessimism and increased suicide rates. This pessimism is reflected in and possibly amplified in film, video and novels in popular dystopian and apocalyptic narratives. While such stories can provide insight and cautionary warnings, we nevertheless also need positive stories imagining the kind of sustainable future we want and need -- as well as creative ideas and visions of how we might get there. 

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Cultural Sustainability

Culture is another essential dimension of sustainability, too often neglected with regard to environment, economic and social development. ISF recognizes and emphasizes how these other priorities ultimately depend upon the fostering of cultural sustainability as this is the realm of values and norms, our history, spirtuality and sense of identity as well as our representations, e.g., in art, literature, music, of what is important and how to deal with the "slings and arrows" of the challenges to our lives and future.

UNESCO highlights the linkages between culture and sustainability.  More

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Dystopian stories provide an opportunity to analyze those aspects of society we want to change or prevent. Utopia, on the other hand, has been getting a bad rap these days, viewed more as a false promise and dystopia in disguise. ISF highlights the efforts of cultural workers and scholars who understand utopia as the image of our desire for a better world, using it to guide our efforts to make it a reality. The Society for Utopian Studies brings together researchers, educators and writers exploring this domain. 

We believe one of the most popular and powerful sources of imagery and narratives about the future is the cinema. From the very first film, Lumiere's Trip to the Moon to Bladerunner, Star Wars and the Hunger Games, the movies have provided an ongoing stream of visions of the future. They may serve as cautionary tales, frightening or inspiring, fantastic or mundane, escape or challenge, each offering a different take on the possibilities and paths facing us.

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The Future in Literature

Stories about the future run through both utopian and dystopian literature. HG Wells' Time Machine established a precedent and template for writers surveying human history's accomplishments and disappointments, opening the door for speculations on what could be possible to achieve or suffer. ISF sees these speculations on technology and human society as especially important lenses to sharpen our insight and choices in shaping our future. We look to identify and celebrate the writers and scholars producing these valuable insights into our future possibilities.

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Scenario Building & Planning

Drawing upon research data, trend analysis and projections, communities and policymakers have been using the tools such as transformative scenario planning and social labs, working with community leaders and stakeholders to identify priorities, concerns, experience and knowledge to imagine and develop plans and initiatives to create the kind of future they.are willing to help build. ISF seeks to especially identify and promote those scenario research efforts exploring the dynamics, potentials and threats involved in sustainability transitions.


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