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Article

Roberto Poli

The purpose of this paper is to explain why finding a theory for futures studies is such a demanding task. In particular, the paper paves the way towards a theoretical

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explain why finding a theory for futures studies is such a demanding task. In particular, the paper paves the way towards a theoretical framework that goes beyond both positivism and anti‐positivism.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper discusses a network of mutually interlinked concepts, including: levels of reality; parts and wholes; causation; the multiplicity of times; anticipation; the thick present; and latents.

Findings

The paper presents the two main obstructions blocking the way towards a theory for futures studies (namely, the belief that the opposition between positivists and anti‐positivists is exhaustive, and the need for better connections with other sciences such as biology, cognitive science and the social sciences.

Research limitations/implications

The paper discusses only one of the different threads in the elaboration of a theoretical basis for futures studies, namely the components closer to science.

Social implications

A proper theory for futures studies will contribute to making them more robust and efficient.

Originality/value

The general framework presented by the paper extends well beyond the somewhat restricted field of futures studies and includes social and psychological sciences, together with biology.

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Article

Roberto Poli

The purpose of this paper is to present the three guiding ideas of the social foresight course, namely, the difference between abstract and concrete futures (i.e. the…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to present the three guiding ideas of the social foresight course, namely, the difference between abstract and concrete futures (i.e. the difference between risk and uncertainty); the three levels of futures studies (forecast, foresight and anticipation); and an overview of the early signs of the incipient shift of human and social sciences from their so-far predominant past-orientation to a new, still unfolding, future-orientation.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper is a reconstruction of the guiding ideas that have been used for designing the social foresight course.

Findings

As far as anticipation is concerned, the authors’ understanding of anticipation is still cursory, and the novelty of the perspective may conceal the difficulty implied by this otherwise refreshingly new vision. The theory is at such an early phase of development that it still lacks a unified conceptual language for theorizing and operationalizing anticipation to facilitate cross-disciplinary conversations.

Originality/value

The ability to anticipate in complex environments may improve the resilience of societies under threat from a global proliferation of agents and forces by articulating insecurities through anticipatory processes. However, to achieve this end, the joint expertise and theoretical awareness of both the futurists and the human and social scientists is needed.

Details

On the Horizon, vol. 23 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1074-8121

Keywords

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Article

Roberto Poli

After summarizing the theories of anticipation proposed over the past century, the paper aims to distinguish between anticipation as an empirical phenomenon and the

Abstract

Purpose

After summarizing the theories of anticipation proposed over the past century, the paper aims to distinguish between anticipation as an empirical phenomenon and the conditions that make anticipation possible. The paper's first part seeks to show that many scholars from various research fields worked on the many nuances of anticipation. The paper's second part seeks to discuss the difference between the capacity of anticipation and the nature of systems able to exhibit anticipatory behavior. The former endeavor adopts a descriptive attitude, whilst the latter seeks to understand what it is that makes anticipation possible.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper presents a theoretical and experimental analysis of anticipation and anticipatory systems.

Findings

Anticipation is a widely studied phenomenon within a number of different disciplines, including biology and brain studies, cognitive and social sciences, engineering and artificial intelligence. There is a need for relying on at least two different levels of analysis, namely anticipation as an empirical phenomenon and the idea of an anticipatory system or the study of the internal structure that a system should possess so that it can behave in an anticipatory fashion.

Research limitations/implications

The literature summarized by the paper is only part of a substantially larger body of documents. More extensive analyses are needed to firmly establish the conclusions suggested.

Practical implications

The paper allows better understanding of the complexity of anticipation and the differences between types of anticipation (e.g. between explicit versus implicit anticipation).

Originality/value

For the first time, the distinction implicitly present in the surveyed literature between anticipation as an empirical phenomenon and the idea of anticipatory system as the study of the conditions that make anticipation possible is raised explicitly.

Details

Foresight, vol. 12 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1463-6689

Keywords

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Article

Roberto Poli

– The purpose of this paper is a presentation of the guiding ideas underlining the master degree course in social foresight recently launched by the University of Trento (Italy).

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is a presentation of the guiding ideas underlining the master degree course in social foresight recently launched by the University of Trento (Italy).

Design/methodology/approach

This paper is a reconstruction of the guiding ideas that have been used for designing the social foresight master degree.

Findings

Students are exposed to a mix of contributions from futures studies, the human and social sciences (including psychology of decisions, social change, values and secondary analysis techniques) and mathematics (not only statistics, but also system theory and simulation).

Originality/value

A unique look at the ideas behind the master degree course in social foresight at the University of Trento (Italy).

Details

On the Horizon, vol. 23 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1074-8121

Keywords

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Article

Carlo Scognamiglio

This article aims to explore anticipation from an ontological point of view and to analyze in particular some of Nicolai Hartmann's ideas.

Abstract

Purpose

This article aims to explore anticipation from an ontological point of view and to analyze in particular some of Nicolai Hartmann's ideas.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper presents a conceptual analysis of an ontological theory of anticipation.

Findings

Analyzing philosophical problems related to “futures” and “anticipation”, to the framework of modal categories, and connecting Hartmann with Ludwig von Bertalanffy and comparing the outcome with some Artistotelian theses, offers a philosophical perspective on futures studies.

Research limitations/implications

The “human” phenomenon of anticipation will be defined as possibly the only form of authentic anticipation, interpreted as a teleological act.

Originality/value

The result is obtained through the distinction, articulated for each level of reality, among different kinds of determination.

Details

Foresight, vol. 12 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1463-6689

Keywords

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Article

Vesselin Petrov

The paper aims to investigate what is the best ontological framework of anticipatory systems. Its aim is to argue the thesis that the ontology on which anticipatory

Abstract

Purpose

The paper aims to investigate what is the best ontological framework of anticipatory systems. Its aim is to argue the thesis that the ontology on which anticipatory systems are based should be a dynamic one: a kind of process ontology. It seeks to include a demonstration of the fruitfulness of such an ontological framework for the investigation of anticipatory systems.

Design/methodology/approach

The methodology of the paper is a process ontological one. The objectives are achieved by a comparative analysis of the static and dynamic approaches to the ontological framework.

Findings

A process ontological framework is a reliable basis for the substantiation of the thesis that there is no great gap between living and non‐living systems as far as anticipation is concerned.

Practical implications

An example is represented of an anticipatory non‐living system that is artificially created and is programmed as a self‐control system. In this respect the paper has some practical implications.

Originality/value

A new approach is suggested to the investigation of anticipatory systems. It could be of interest not only for philosophers, but also for scientists who work on ontology as technology.

Details

Foresight, vol. 12 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1463-6689

Keywords

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Article

Rocco Scolozzi and Roberto Poli

– This paper aims to present an overview of deep issues flanking the ideas of system and complexity, and an overview of the mentioned course as a proposal for systems thinking.

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to present an overview of deep issues flanking the ideas of system and complexity, and an overview of the mentioned course as a proposal for systems thinking.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper provides a discursive overview of systems and philosophical concepts related to the described course.

Findings

The review offers a perspective of a super-system that includes the students, the lecturers and the context of their interaction, in which one may recognize a relational framework for social learning of a systemic sustainability.

Research limitations/implications

The overview concerns only the actual intervention in the University of Trento.

Practical implications

The described concepts and related philosophical discussion may contribute to the integration of system thinking in the future studies.

Originality/value

The described intervention is a new Italian context and the integration of systems concepts with futures studies seems not to be commonly established.

Details

On the Horizon, vol. 23 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1074-8121

Keywords

Abstract

Details

Foresight, vol. 12 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1463-6689

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Article

Erik F. Øverland

Contemporary foresight activities are increasingly dominated by commitment to research methods and an ambition to found a sound theory of futures thinking. Arguably, there

Abstract

Purpose

Contemporary foresight activities are increasingly dominated by commitment to research methods and an ambition to found a sound theory of futures thinking. Arguably, there has been a general failure to examine and explicate the relationship between theory and method. As Poli; Karlsen & Karlsen; Aaltonen; Inayatullah and others argue, there is both a need and a will to develop a substantial foundation of futures studies that not only goes beyond epistemology, but explicitly tries to establish an ontological rationale for futures research as a post‐positivist scientific activity. Following along this line, the purpose of this paper is to represent a radical constructivist approach to the theory of latents and level of realities that transcends traditional phenomenology.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper also gives a brief outline on how Kant meets Latour and constitutes and reproduces two ontological areas, man and nature and argues in favour of a post‐post conception called “universal perspectivism”.

Findings

It is found that the foresight community and futurists must revert to some basic ontological assumptions about the future, e.g. as a reflection of human imagination or as a projection of today's situation, particularly the reproduction of the construction of an idea of the human being as such, and its opposite – what it is not.

Originality/value

The consequences for anticipation activities are tremendous: in forward looking activities we reproduce both the distinction between reality in itself and reality for us, or put differently, between appearances and latent. These are then linked to the differentiation between two basic ontological areas throughout all time modalities, nature and society (man). The link between pasts, presents and futures is getting closer.

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Article

Anthony Hodgson

The purpose of this paper is to propose that conceptions of time and future that are currently in use restrict the possibilities for framing decision making. By

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to propose that conceptions of time and future that are currently in use restrict the possibilities for framing decision making. By privileging the notion of present moment over that of linear time, a more comprehensive framing of what it means to consider what influences our judgements. The ontology of the present moment provides a theoretical context for knowing what we can of the future in a more comprehensive way.

Design/methodology/approach

A review of ways of knowing the future that extends beyond linear assumptions of time leads to consideration of anticipatory systems and of the relationship between purpose and causality. It leads further into conjecture that the present moment is more ontologically fundamental than what we customarily refer to as past, present and future.

Findings

On this foundation, examination of experience of now reveals a multidimensionality which can include retrocausality, the possibility of the future influencing the present and the importance of latent patterning in determining events.

Research limitations/implications

The notion of the present moment has much in common with second order cybernetics and indicates a possible way of bringing systems thinking, especially boundary critique, to futures thinking and strategic decision making.

Practical implications

Although basically a theoretical paper, the framework does suggest possibilities for redesigning futures practice through using the present moment as a meta‐framing critique technique to reveal more clearly underlying assumptions in both futures studies and systems thinking.

Originality/value

In the context of a world where serious inability to see what is coming is pervasive in management and governance, a fresh look at fundamental assumptions may reveal flawed decision thinking and indicate ways of improvement.

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