TCH110 - Preface

This class is about foresight development (FD), which is a blend of two things: 1) futures studies (FS)/strategic foresight (SF), or what people think may happen in the future of various disciplines and the methods they use to look ahead, and 2) foresight practices (FP), or activities to improve your own great ability to create, discover, and manage the future. We focus more on FS/SF in the first half, and more on FP in the second half of this course.

Like history and current affairs, we believe that foresight development—better and worse examples of personal, organizational, societal, global and universal foresight thinking and actionshould be part of the general educational curriculum for all undergraduates. Only the most forward-thinking universities around the planet, probably less than 100 at present, presently offer foresight development or futures studies courses to their undergrads. As you might expect, UAT is one of those leading the way.

We start with an intro to the history and field of futures studies, then look briefly at “big picture” processes occurring in our universe and on our planet, through the lenses of science, technology, and systems thinking. We explore how these processes are affecting individuals, organizations, society, governments, and the environment, and consider both the inevitable “forces” and creative “choices” that seem to be involved. We'll also examine how organizations make bets on the future, and help you think about career prospects in a variety of fields. 

The last part looks at your personal foresight potential. We'll consider how biology, psychology, culture and community help and hinder your personal thinking about the future, and ways you can use your unique strengths, skills, networks, and knowledge to shape your future success, however you choose define it—and there are more ways today than ever before.

TCH110 uses a number of models to help you think holistically about the future. Here are three you should know about:

I. In terms of systems, we will consider five systems levels (“UGSOP” Systems Model) in relation to foresight development, starting with the Big Picture, universal topics, and ending with the choices and forces in our personal lives. 

1. Universal systems (science, systems theory, and spirituality)
2. Global systems (technology, environment, and global problems)
3. Societal systems (socio-economic, socio-political, and socio-cultural)
4. Organizational systems (entrepreneurship, management, cooperation, activism, family)
5. Personal systems (aesthetics, self-development, tools, health, wealth, other social impact)

II. In terms of issues, we will consider six general subject areas (“STEEPS” Categories Model) in relation to foresight development: 

1. Science issues (general science, general systems theory, cognition science and systems theory)
2. Technology issues (computing, engineering, automation, virtualization, transparency, biotech)
3. Environment issues (resources, commodities, energy, biodiversity, pollution, catastrophes)
4. Economics issues (entrepreneurship, capitalism, globalization, aid and development)
5. Political issues (democracy, sustainability, rights, migration, governance, law, defense, crime)
6. Social issues (social activism, education, media, subcultures, demographics, aesthetics, health)

III. In terms of foresight skills, we’ll use the classic 3P’s Skills Model, and practice seeing and analyzing “Possible, Probable, and Preferable” Futures. This model was first developed by Roy Amara, President and CEO (1970-1990) of one of the first futures think tanks, the Institute for the Future, founded in 1968. Another name for this, based on the actions involved, is the CDM Skills Model, as it is about:

1. Creating/Envisioning a range of Possible futures
2. Discovering/Predicting the most Probable futures
3. Managing/Measuring toward Preferable futures.

Each of these models has its strengths and disadvantages and assumptions and biases that need to be analyzed, but as a group they form a good foundation for further development of your futuring abilities, in this course and in life. The boundaries and buckets for all classification systems are always squishy and approximate. Nevertheless, using models helps one to consider a broader range of important factors in our complex world, and how they may interact to create change.

Fellow students, I’m looking forward to working with and learning from you in this class!

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