The following foresight courses have been developed
and taught at the university level by ASF to date. Visit FERN
if you would like to join our volunteer foresight curriculum development
Personal Foresight Skills Practice + General Foresight Education
the spread of required foresight curricula in universities the world
over is a major priority for the ASF. Our community has developed
a required (core) introductory undergraduate course in Foresight
Development (futures studies education plus personal foresight
skills practice). The first instance of this unique course, first
taught Fall 2007, now exists at the University
of Advancing Technology, a four year university in
Tempe, AZ, whose mission is educating innnovators of the future.
Course materials for this fifteen week course can
be found online at our creative commons-licenced wiki, Foresight
Development - Course Wiki. All foresight educators
are invited to use and modify this material for your own courses.
Course slides are also available to qualified instructors on request.
Are you a foresight educator or researcher, practitioner,
or advocate? Join ASF's Foresight
Education & Research Network (FERN), a group of
passionate people teaching, researching, and practicing foresight
around the world. Help us spread foresight education globally!
Today's students face a very different world than
their parents did. They will live longer, change careers faster,
learn new skills more frequently, and have more freedom than ever
to choose their experiences, social networks, and values. The rollercoaster
of scientific and technological (sci-tech) change runs faster every
year, spinning us irreversibly toward a very extraordinary future.
Our planet is wiring up into one vast, instantaneous, transparent
and increasingly intelligent global network, just one of many sci-tech
innovations that are creating amazing new opportunities for business
Yet there are great challenges ahead as well. Fundamental
problems (hunger, drought, disease, overpopulation, poverty, underemployment,
corruption, human rights violations, violent conflict) persist in
the developing world, and the most developed countries (MDCs) are
gaining new problems (obesity, addiction, dependence, institutional
educational decline, media centralization, erosion of democracy)
related to their affluence. What’s more, several global problems
(environmental degradation, climate change, global security, rising
energy cost) are likely to get worse before they get better, and
the world is now so interconnected that big problems anywhere are
becoming everyone's problem. Most curiously, cultural change in
developed societies the world over is in many ways "saturating,"
or heading for one common, stable type of future, while our technology
continues to speed up and complexity all around us. Economic, political,
legal, social, environmental, and even ethical standards in every
nation on the planet are moving toward one common set (with small
variations between nations) of global human rights and entitlements—and
most of the developing nations are seeing the fastest changes and
In our lifetimes, benefits and leverage from the
positive use of science, technology, business, politics, and social
activism will only get more powerful, while "immune systems"
guarding against the rising potential dangers in our high-tech world
will only get more important. Meanwhile automation, computers, robots,
and avatars/agents are progressively exceeding our biological capabilities,
and becoming increasingly intimate extensions and representations
of our individual selves. There may come a time this century when
our most advanced technology becomes 'organic' (evolved, not built
by humans) and when our biological selves become 'technologic' (increasingly
closely connected to our modern machines).
Circa 2020 the main way most of us talk to the web
may be by speaking natural sentences, through what is called a 'conversational
interface.' Shortly after that, many of us may be using intelligent
software agents, or 'Digital Twins,' which will act like simple
secretaries for us, and which will answer our questions (they will
in turn ask 'the web') when we want to do any complex thing. These
twins will model our values, interests, and personality, and will
become increasingy useful advisors to us, improving our global 'digital
democracy', and at the same time, better "copies" of us
every year. When we die, our friends may continue to talk to these
twins, as they will be the best available '3D digital scrapbooks'
of our lives, our stories, and our personalities. Some of us may
even allow them to continue to improve their intelligence over time,
until one day they "feel" to our survivors like we are
Are you ready for the future? A good deal of it is
already here in nascent (beginning, embryonic) form, as we will
see in this course. Every choice you make today helps steer the
future in a direction you choose. Humans have practiced creating,
discovering, planning for, and benefiting from change since the
dawn of our species. With the current pace of change, never has
foresight been more useful. Come learn how.
Foresight is the act of looking to the future.
This course helps you learn better global, business and personal
foresight, so you can better enjoy and manage your own future.
This course will explore the big picture history of accelerating
change from universal, historical and technological perspectives,
and consider global trends that are affecting individuals, society,
businesses and governments. Additionally, the course will examine
how organizations make bets on the future, and gives the student
a chance to explore career prospects in a variety of fields. Finally,
discussion of how biology, psychology, community and culture help
and hinder personal thinking about the future will be discussed.
We will explore four fundamental foresight skills: creating the
future (innovating products and services); discovering the future
(models, trend identification and analysis); planning the future
(developing shared goals and processes); and benefiting in the
future (achieving measurable positive environmental, social, or
economic results). Assignments will be personalized to your own
foresight goals, and include brief readings, writing, discussions,
debates, visuals, film, podcasts and games.
Learning objectives include:
- Systems Thinking
Learning and Study Skills
and Developmental Models of Change
Discovering, Planning and Benefiting Skills
Global, Societal, Organizational, and Personal Systems Thinking
- Basic Technology,
Economic, and Sociopolitical Literacy (History, Current Affairs,
Technology Foresight + Professional Foresight Practice
first draft of this course will be taught in the University of Houston's
Foresight MS program, Summer
We have seen astounding changes in technology in
the last century. What’s more, several types of technological
change have accelerated over this time period, particularly those
associated with digital and nanotechnologies. Some say accelerating
scientific and technological change have in turn become the prime
drivers and accelerators of business and social change. If this
technology acceleration continues, we can expect profound new productive
and intelligence capacities, wealth, and social change in coming
decades. In a world where Big Data is growing 55% a year (IDC),
and our leading mobile platforms (Google Now, Siri, Cortana) are
learning new conversational and intelligence skills every month,
it’s never been more important to assess what all this technology
acceleration means for strategic foresight practice.
We’ll look at technology acceleration in six
units, over six weeks, using six complementary perspectives. In
each unit, we’ll seek insights that can improve your strategic
foresight practice. Each book presents some possible, probable,
and preferable futures of technology evolution and development,
both in the shorter run (next three to five years, our typical client
interest) and the longer run (next ten to fifty years). You will
be asked to buy, skim and discuss three of these six books during
the class, and to develop your own critical point of view on each.
The units and books are:
Unit 1. Universal Acceleration
Is technology acceleration the next
“substrate” in a multi-billion year history of accelerating
universal complexity development? We’ll look at some the arguments,
and their strategic foresight implications.
Foresight Guide: Being a Leader in Anticipating, Creating, and Managing
the Future, Smart, 2015.
Unit 2. Technology, Wealth, and Social Acceleration.
As digital tech and nanotechnology
accelerate in price/performance, they drive accelerating trends
in wealth production, entrepreneurship and digital social actions
(sharing, collaboration, and activism). These trends and actions
in turn impact many of the world’s greatest problems.
Second Machine Age, Brynjolfsson and McAfee,
2014 OR The
Birth of Plenty, Bernstein, 2010.
Areas of Technological Change, Smart 2012.
Unit 3. Quantification, Simulation and Foresight Acceleration
As Big Data, social sharing, sensors,
maps, simulations, and algorithms proliferate and accelerate, a
variety of new collective and machine intelligence foresight tools
and methods are emerging, including predictive analytics, statistical
models, crowdsourcing, funding, and founding, and ideation, innovation
and prediction markets. How and how fast may all this technological
change affect strategic foresight practice, and how can you continually
find and use the best of these tools and methods for your clients?
Analytics, Siegel, 2013 OR The
Signal and the Noise, Silver, 2015.
Unit 4. Globalization and Societal Convergence and Deceleration
As technology-enabled globalization
and wealth production accelerates, developing economies show many
convergent economic, environmental, security, political and regulatory
processes, making some types of social futures more regulated and
predictable than ever before. What’s more, several social
change processes are today decelerating on several measures (population
growth, conflict, pollution, individual energy use, Eroom’s
law of FDA drug approval), and in speed- and cost-to-capability
in many areas (health care, defense, litigation, patents, large
construction projects), often in direct proportion to the wealth
or technology of the country under study. How can better knowledge
of these trends and social constraints help our clients?
Infinite Resource, Naam, 2014 OR Infinite
Progress, Reese, 2013.
Unit 5. Biologically-Inspired AI, Intelligent Agents, and
the Singularity Hypothesis
New machine intelligence paradigms
like Deep Learning are making great strides in natural language
understanding, machine vision, statistical inference, and many other
types of analysis and pattern recognition. Many of these machines
use parallel, collective, connectionist approaches, very similar
to the way the human brain appears to process information. The better
neuroscience gets, the more engineers are learning how to copy biological
intelligence processes and run similar algorithms in our machines.
In fact, all this work is increasingly “uploading” portions
of ourself into the digital world, and we are now even seeing the
emergence of sentiment and values maps in our social networks (the
“valuecosm”), and personal intelligent agents (“digital
twins”) that have crude models of our values, preferences,
and even mental and emotional states. We’ll ask where these
assistive technologies might go coming years, and consider the hypothesis
of the Technological Singularity (human-surpassing machine intelligence).
Trustable machine intelligence might emerge in our cars, robots,
and digital systems in coming years. We’ll consider how and
how fast that might occur, and some foresight implications of increasingly
intelligent and symbiotic machines and personal agents.
Future of the Mind, Kaku, 2014 OR The
Singularity is Near, Kurzweil, 2005.
Unit 6. Social Challenges and Failure States
There are many social challenges and
failure states we might see in a world of continuing technological
acceleration, including increasing digital and income inequality,
erosion of democracy and privacy, terrorism and conflict, pandemic,
failing education, addiction and dependency, resource scarcity,
and global warming and other environmental catastrophes. We’ll
consider several of those challenges, and ask how better foresight,
and better use and guidance of technological acceleration may help
us and our clients achieve the best and avoid the worst of what
may happen in an ever-faster technological future.
The World in 2050, The Economist, 2012.