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Futurism 101: What is Futurism and Who are the Noteworthy Futurists


Futurism is a way of thinking about the future by looking at current trends and extrapolating them into the near or distant future. It’s not predicting the future but rather imagining what it might be like. The term futurist was coined in 1909 when Italian writer Filippo Tommaso Marinetti published his Manifesto of Futurism. In this manifesto, he called for an art that represented modern life’s speed, violence, and dynamism. Today, many futurists study everything from technology to economics to demographics, each trying to develop their own vision for our world’s tomorrow.

What can we learn from futurists?

We can learn how to adapt more quickly to change by looking at the past and present and then extrapolating this into the future. Futurists study what has happened in the past, look at current trends and try to predict where these will lead us in the near or far future. For example, futurist Nikola Danaylov uses the “ Delphi Method ” method, which an American social scientist developed – it analyzes large groups of experts about their forecasts on specific subjects, with each expert having equal input.

This is important because when one person tries to predict what could happen, they could be wrong (either intentionally or unintentionally), but when many people look at something, a consensus and new ideas can be discovered. Futurists can also help us make better decisions regarding important areas such as business, education, and social organization. They study different models used in the past and present (e.g., capitalism, socialism) then use scientific methods to predict how they will fare in the future. Even simple ideas like putting a birdhouse on your house could save many birds!

“Futures Studies” is an academic discipline that attempts to explore predicted scenarios of the future and their implications mainly via trends observed from the recent past, especially those generated by advancing technology. It combines trend analysis with some knowledge of possible or probable futures to give plausible future pictures. It is an interdisciplinary field, studied from various theoretical and applied perspectives by different specialized fields, including behavioral sciences (especially cognitive psychology), engineering, economics, management science, geography, mathematics, and physics.

Futures studies are also practical because it helps you prepare for things that may be coming in the future and can help you plan for your own life and learn how to deal with large scale changes like climate change or high population growth rates. Futurists can help businesses stay competitive by forecasting market trends while anticipating what competitors will do in response. This way, companies can redirect resources after learning about how the competition will react. Governments and large corporations also use the field to plan out potential scenarios for the future in everything from military defense to economic policymaking.

See Also: Trends, Forecasting, Management Science, Behavioral Sciences (Cognitive Psychology), Resource management, Planning Theory.


Who are famous or noteworthy futurists

Many futurists are private analysts and advisers to government, business, or other organizations. They work together with other futurist professionals in various fields, including new product development and design, economics, ecology, engineering, education, bioethics, and public policy. Some of the most notable futurists include those highlighted below.

Paul Saffo is the managing director of foresight at Discern Analytics, a research and consulting firm. He has been an advisor to Ford, Motorola, Uber, Sprint, and SolarCity. Saffo’s specific market focus is on growth industries transforming whole sectors of the economy: digital health care, biotech-based agriculture, and clean energy. He wrote for 17 years for “Forbes ASAP.”

Sonia Arrison holds a Ph.D. in technology policy from MIT. She is co-founder and president of the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence (SIAI), which provides strategic forecasting services to investors looking to make financial bets based on long-term planning horizons. The institute also funds research into AI safety. Arrison is a fellow at the Seasteading Institute.

James Canton is an expert on emerging technologies and trends. He advises organizations on planning for the future, particularly around exponential technology uptake curves based on market observations. Canton is a Director of Research at the Institute for Global Futures (IGF) in San Francisco. He leads research initiatives to envision possible futures and prescribe strategies and solutions for decision-makers in business, government, education, and civil society. He has authored several books, including “The Extreme Future,” “Living Networks,” and “Technofutures.”

Peter Cochrane was with BT Cellnet (later Orange S.A.) for 30 years from 1981 as head of service development (1984–86), then head of technology forecasting (1986–91), and finally Corporate Director – Research. He resigned in 1993 to start his own firm, PCC, which specializes in providing senior executives with advice on the future from a technologist’s perspective. His first book, “The End of Telecommunications,” published by Palgrave Macmillan in January 1996, predicted convergence and multimedia long before the concepts became popular, being reprinted 13 times between 2000 and 2009.

James Dator has been a futurist since 1986 when he was one of three people worldwide who founded World Future Society’s Futures Research Quarterly (the others were Jerome C Glenn and Bruce Sterling). He is currently based at Hawaii Pacific University, where he directs their new Globalization Studies program for MBA students. He is also a professor of political science. His most recent book is “The Hawaii Strategy” (2013) which discusses the geopolitics of an island state.

John Elkington is co-founder and executive chairman of Volans; a think-and-do tank focused on sustainable development. Since he authored seminal reports in 1987 for SustainAbility – “The Green Report” and “Sharing Common Values” – John has inspired many debates about how business can make money from sustainability and what role government might play to encourage private sector innovation. With Pamela Hartigan, he wrote the book “Cannibals with Forks: The Triple Bottom Line of 21st Century Business”.

David Houle is one world’s leading futurists. He has been a business consultant to corporations, governments, universities, and non-profits. In 1998 David founded H+K Strategies (later Evantage), a futurist consulting firm focused on the future of marketing. David is also cofounder in the New York City of The Millennium Project, an international futures research think tank with participation from members in over 50 countries that uses foresight methods to identify trends, anticipate surprises, and accelerate positive change.


How will the world look like in the coming decades? According to futurist Ray Kurzweil, the next two decades “will transform humanity more than any other time in history.” How can we prepare for these changes, and what should we do to thrive rather than survive? Perhaps most importantly, how can we ensure that intelligent machines serve us rather than enslave us? In his book “How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed,” which this article is based on, he explores these questions and offers possible answers.

The Next Two Decades Will Change Humanity More Than Any Other Time

In his new book, Kurzweil describes “the singularity,” which occurs when intelligent machines become more powerful than ourselves. He predicts that this singularity will occur between 2040 and 2045. Up until 2020, exponential growth in artificial intelligence (AI) is expected to occur. If we look at how computer processing power has developed over recent decades, we can see why. In 1960 it took a computer 40 seconds to calculate a single orbit of the earth around the sun – by 2000, it was doing 2 million orbits per second; by 2010, the fastest supercomputer could perform 10 trillion calculations per second:

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