[ExI] What's Wrong With Academic Futurists?

Robin D Hanson rhanson at gmu.edu
Sun Jan 26 00:15:12 UTC 2014

I asked:
>What is the problem with academic futurists such that people on a future oriented list like this aren't much interested in them?

Natasha responded:
I have a MSc in this area. ...

That should make your opinions on the subject well informed.

There is a group, Association of Professional Futurists. I was a member for a couple of years and left because it ended up being a tool to support one particular set of people and not everyone http://www.profuturists.org/ .  ...
Criticism of futurists:  from my experience, many people think futurists are riding on the coat-tails of innovators/entrepreneurs. The great futurists I am grateful to have known and/or worked with are Alvin Toffler, John Naisbitt, Buckminster Fuller and FM-2030. They were true visionaries. The academic futurists, again from my experience, are not visionary (more conservative types) and want to get paid by DARPA, IBM, etc. to forecast possible futures. The techniques and models are quite good, but again it is more a matter of statistics, mathematics, and formula strategy, which is fine and I value. I teach a couple of courses (undergraduate and graduate) where I use some of these methods/tools for my student’s assignments.  STEEP, Environmental Scanning, SWOT, Strategy Canvas, Backcasting, etc. are all useful and I value them.

These are the kind of issues I wanted to get people to talk about. If we want accurate estimates of the future, why wouldn't people who want to get paid by large organizations be a good source? Why would people who use stat, math, and formula be unreliable estimators, relative to people who are visionary and innovator/entrepreneurs?  Does data on past predictions support this choice?

Robin Hanson  http://hanson.gmu.edu
Res. Assoc., Future of Humanity Inst., Oxford Univ.
Assoc. Professor, George Mason University
Chief Scientist, Consensus Point
MSN 1D3, Carow Hall, Fairfax VA 22030
703-993-2326 FAX: 703-993-2323

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