Objectives And Characteristics, Bibliography
Futurology is the study of the future to obtain knowledge of it on the basis of present trends. Beginning in the 1960s, it is a relatively new field of study. The word futurology was first used in 1943 by Ossip Flechteim, a political scientist, to describe a new scientific field of human knowledge based on a critical, systematic, and normative analysis of questions related to future. However, future studies (or futures studies), futures research, futuristics, prognostics, and futurible are also used for the term futurology.
Interest in the future of humanity, society, and the world in general is an age-old phenomenon. In a two-volume extensive scholarly work, Fred Polak (1961) has outlined "the close relationship between the history of images of the future and the general course of history itself" and shown that "positive images of the future, in and through their own history, have foreshadowed the outlines of the oncoming course of general events." In his study the images of future are largely those presented by the utopia. An important lesson, most relevant to futurology, drawn from his study is that the utopia "can be used by intelligent and humanitarian men as a tool for reworking society" and further that the future of society rests in human hands. This idea that man has within him the power to create a desirable future conducive to the general well-being of man and nature has guided this new field of futurology. Dramatic events, such as the successful completion of the Manhattan Project during World War II and later development in space research leading to the successful landing of a human being on the Moon, opened people's eyes to the new power of science and technology—that it can be harnessed not only to help humans determine a future desired goal, but also to achieve it in a stipulated time. Realization of this fact—that a desirable future objective can be planned and achieved—was decisive in creating this new field of futurology. It was also soon realized that human society was facing critical problems such as overpopulation, food shortages, growing economic disparities, resource depletion, worldwide energy crises, environmental pollution, threat of terrorism, and other perils, which—if unchecked—might lead to a disastrous future. It was imperative that corrective measures for such impending global dangers be taken. These afforded immediate objective for the new field of studies. In a sense, the perception of the future as a supreme resource is the driving force of futurology.
One recurrent theme appearing in the writings of the futurists characterizing the present age is what Peter Drucker refers to as the "age of discontinuity." The cleavage with the past in many important respects is brought about by the unprecedented growth in the scientific and technological knowledge, leading the world to the brink of a great transformation. The fallout of this transformation is many sided and varied, encompassing everything of human activity. What is unprecedented about this transformation is the accelerated rate of change in development, exemplified, for example, by the fact that the computer speed is doubled every eighteen months (Moore's law). Such changes have consequent impact on the nature of work, habitat, transportation, communication, and all spheres of human activity. The stress of having to cope with all the changes within a short time produces the "future shock" discussed by Alvin Toffler (1970). It is the "dizzying disorientation brought on by the premature arrival of the future," "a time phenomenon, a product of the greatly accelerated rate of change in society" (Toffler). The writings of Alvin Toffler, Arthur C. Clarke, and Buckminster Fuller have caught the imagination of the general public and generated interest in the future of human civilization.