Half of my work involves thinking like a futurist. But my approach to being a futurist is, I think, quite different from what's described in the article. For example, the first recommendation is to "forget about predictions." Why? "Nobody can predict large socio-technical transformations and what exactly these are going to look like." By analogy, "One way to think about this is to look at the difference between waves and tides. Waves are what we see on the surface... Underneath the waves is the tide, causing all kinds of disturbances of which waves are just one sign." But if you can't predict the tides, you're not much of a futurist. Being a futurist is predicting the future. Otherwise, you're an economist.
The article discusses some other facets of being a futurist. One focuses on readiness, another on finding patterns, another on signals, and another on community. All of these have to do not so much with being a futurist but rather with speaking to a particular audience. That is a core skill, but has nothing to do with futurism. Take any proposition P - some people will care about P, others won't. I can make all kinds of predictions about tomorrow, but the odds are you will not care about them. Patterns, signals, readiness, community - all these depend on salience and relevance.
But futurism is the opposite of that. Futurism is about identifying things that don't interest people before they land as unexpected surprises in their laps. A big part of it is pattern recognition - but from your own perspective, not your audiences. You need to see what they don't already see. You need to see what happens when emerging trends collide - do they cancel each other out, or do they amplify an effect? You have to have a sense of scale, seeing waves, tides, and sea-level rise. You have to have a sense of what could happen, and then scale back with evidence and probabilities about whether it will. You have to understand that your looking at data, not signs, signals and portends. And then - yes - present it with the interests of the audience in mind, but without them defining what your message will be.
While the Internet Archive (IA) is a great service, it's not really meant for day-to-day use. It's an archive, not a production website. If you want to restore a site from the archived copy, that can be a lot of work, since IA changes all the links and adds a header. Archivarix acts like a reverse archiver - it extracts the site from IA, cleans it up, and presents it to you in a zip file ready for mounting on a web server where it can resume its former life as a real web site. It won't be perfect - things IA couldn't harvest, like CGI scripts and some background files, will not work. But in many cases, the results will be quite acceptable. Robin Good reviews the site and shows some videos of it in action.
The question being considered by the author is one best considered while still working in a college or university environment, I would say. And it should be thought of in this sense: if I left academe today, would I still be working on this work? If the answer is 'no', stop doing the work and start working on something you're actually interested in. For me - and I suspect for most real academics (whether in academe or not) - the work is work we would be doing anyway.
I disagree with the sentiment expressed in the headline for two reasons. First, many of Canada's think tanks are what Guillaume Lamy calls "combat think tanks", meaning they "defend or advocate on behalf of ideologies and policies outside the political system." And they do this using illegitimate or very questionable research. And second, they “are highly adept at getting their messages heard in today’s crowded ideas marketplace.” Depending on private fundraising from special interest groups, they essentially shout down more legitimate perspectives, placing columns in newspapers, filling all the slots for media interviews, and thereby defining conversations they have no business being in. It's worth noting that news media are their willing accomplices as they turn to the think tanks for an easy headline rather than doing the work of interviewing serious academics, researchers and scientists. Image: explorenation #.
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