Futures research

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Minnesota Higher Education in the New Paradigm of Knowledge Production: Findings and Discussion of a Delphi Study

Here’s my presentation from this morning’s La Universidad en México en el año 2030: imaginando futuros conference at UNAM in Mexico City.

(Click here for the Spanish version.)

This paper introduces how the convergence of globalization, emergence of the knowledge society and accelerating change contribute to what might be best termed a New Paradigm of knowledge production in higher education. The New Paradigm reflects the emerging shifts in thought, beliefs, priorities and practice in regard to education in society. These new patterns of thought and belief are forming to harness and manage the chaos, indeterminacy, and complex relationships of the postmodern.

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Forbes divines the future, finds the 20th century

Forbes is running a special report on “The Future.” From the opening comments:

The truth is that people simply aren’t very good at predicting the future. It was only two centuries ago that we began to think we could do it at all, and we’re still learning. Hindsight may be 20/20, but foresight remains largely blind.

And so begins an odyssey of the blind leading the blind…

The section lightly critiques the futures field, and interviews a few futurists and couple future-oriented business leaders. It also points to some key literature in science fiction, and touches on a few “hot” areas in futures studies. Alas, the topics discussed all short-term and short on imagination. Case in point: The article entitled with the borrowed Yogi Berra quote, “the future isn’t what it used to be.”

Is there room for creativity in the future?

2007 State of the Future report released

sof2007.jpgJerome Glenn, director of the United Nations-affiliated Millennium Project, announced the release of the 2007 State of the Future report. According to the project’s press release, “the 2007 version adds a futurist look at the possibilities for education and improving collective intelligence by 2030.”


This year’s addition, a study requested and supported by the Republic of Korea, explores possibilities for learning and education by 2030. Compiled by more than 200 participants, suggestions include greater use of individualized education, just-in-time knowledge and learning, use of simulations, improved individual nutrition, finding ways to keep adult brains healthier, E-Teaching, and integrated life-long learning systems.

Although the report, itself, is short, the accompanying CD contains a detailed compendium of all previous years’ research into global futures, with some projections stretching into thousands of years into the future.

A New Paradigm of Knowledge Production

My doctoral dissertation, A New Paradigm of Knowledge Production in Minnesota Higher Education: A Delphi Study, is available for purchase online or for online preview:


Download now and save! For the month of September, the PDF edition is available for download at the discounted price of $30.00 $15.00 (50% off)!

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Alternative presents and futures research

I am developing the following ideas with George Kubik and John Moravec. We welcome any feedback you might have.

To date, divisions of past, present, and future have been a necessary condition for a paradigm of futures research. We assert that the futures research field must progress beyond traditional assumptions and categories of past, present and future to the recognition that 1) these concepts are largely byproducts of industrial time, and 2) Newtonian/Cartesian thinking with precepts of control, determinism, and linearity. The construction of alternative pasts, presents, and futures offers a new mode for sense-making, design, and choice in human affairs. It treats futures research as an activity that involves the re-conceptualization, redesign and reconstruction of the present into alternative presents.

The futures field is built upon traditional understandings of time and the partitioning of time into past, present, and future. However, we assert that this historical understanding of time, as partitioned into past, present, and future, has become too limited for sense making in a more complex world. The futures field must now expand into the new frontier of alternative presents, thereby permitting new sense making, knowledge creation, and decision options.

We define alternative presents as distinctive existential states of continuous novelty and emergent complexity. Comparison is the mechanism whereby one present state can be differentiated from others. Shortly we will demonstrate the use of simtime in the creation and application of alternative presents.

As previously noted, humans are time-bound. Concepts of past, present, and future events are bound together to provide continuity and a framework for sense making, knowledge production, and decision making. The process of simtime suggests a new methodology for harnessing the continuous emergence of novelty, invention, and design in the scope of human time binding.

Simtime methods address historical and anticipated states in terms of time-binding and time-transcendence. They advance the concepts of imported pasts and imported futures that are continuously invented and re-invented within alternative presents. The ongoing construction and deconstruction of imported pasts and imported presents within alternative presents provides frameworks for new formats of time association. Thus, alternative presents are treated as continuously created and emergent resources rather than single points with the passage of chronological time.

The field of futures research is defined largely through its methodologies, or philosophies of method. Scientific futurists assert that discoveries of past, present, and future relationships (e.g., cycles, bifurcations, trajectories, and discontinuities) are best determined by methodological properties rather than objective observations of phenomenological properties. From this point of view, the futures field is already concerned with the invention rather than the discovery of temporal patterns and processes in phenomenological events. A central tenet of simtime is that different depictions of presents are, indeed, artifacts of human observation, categorization, and methodological choice.

We assert that the concept of alternative presents affords the possibility to develop new soft technologies of great importance. Rapid change and complexification have mutated time to become more than an interval measure; it has become a critical resource in the generation of new sense making, knowledge construction, and decision alternatives. The conceptualization of time has migrated from a value-free phenomenon to be studied to a value-rich resource to be developed.