Foresight as Dialogue: As the World Changes, We May Need to Modify Our Methods of Forecasting to Better Make Sense of Change. Yet We Must Not Discard the Still-Relevant Wisdom of the Past. the President of the World Future Society Lags out Some "Rules of the Road" for Forecasting That Draw a Middle Path between Inclusiveness and Adaptation on One Hand, and Discretion and Convention on the Other

By Mach, Timothy C. | The Futurist, March-April 2013 | Go to article overview

Foresight as Dialogue: As the World Changes, We May Need to Modify Our Methods of Forecasting to Better Make Sense of Change. Yet We Must Not Discard the Still-Relevant Wisdom of the Past. the President of the World Future Society Lags out Some "Rules of the Road" for Forecasting That Draw a Middle Path between Inclusiveness and Adaptation on One Hand, and Discretion and Convention on the Other


Mach, Timothy C., The Futurist


Foresight and futures discussions--whether they take the form of a written article, a conference presentation, or an in-person consultation--always include a "speaker for the future" and the listener, his or her dialogue partner. Dialogue on futures and foresight is hence an essential search for communication and understanding between parties and viewpoints. The ideal foresight process involves asking and answering questions, as well as exchanging expertise in a working relationship.

The article explores the range of foresight tools and techniques needed to effectively address our changing world. I will offer a few "operational rules of the road" for foresight practice, based on my experience and observation.

Rule of the Road: Revisiting assumptions about research and analysis is always useful, even if only to reconfirm validity. But in a dynamic environment, little remains static. Old rules may become out of date.

The ability to capture, process, and report data is expanding dynamically, but these are largely quantitative capabilities. Discovering the meaning and gaining insight from data trends continue to challenge us. We need to cross the bridge between quantitative and qualitative analysis (aka, creativity) in order to integrate multiple insights and come to a holistic and useful set of conclusions. One of the most intriguing and yet elusive subjects of inquiry in this arena is what are called weak signals, and we will be pursuing that quarry with enthusiasm.

First, let us consider basic methodology. To start, we take a look at the functional aspects of the extremely large data sets that have become so commonplace in global modeling. The size of these sets is driven by the exponential growth of the Internet, global communications, and surveillance technology. There have been huge increases in incoming data at all times and from all places. Our ability to crunch massive amounts of the data is also rapidly expanding. But are we paying attention to the expansion of risk, as well? Are there standards that can help us avoid driving our model off the road at excessively high speed?

Some of the models built to interpret this data flood are highly opaque, and a major concern is how many operators of large data models are actually struggling with these rather opaque analytical tools or are inattentive to the risks. One of the most useful risk-reduction tactics is a more complete understanding of the fundamentals of model construction and management. I have relied below on the excellent work of Adam Gordon.

We should always understand the shape of the data relationships involved--the basic underlying data relations (usually mathematical), such as direct or inverse, at work in the data set. Connected with this is data interaction--the relations between multiple factors that affect outcomes, such as reinforcing loops (positive or negative feedback), balancing loops (change-dampers, such as thermostats), and causal loops (mixes of the two). One way to think about tipping points, for example, involves their activation of feedback loops, such as in climate-change dynamics. These points of activation are referred to as thresholds or discontinuities within data relationships where the rules can change (e.g., producing a catastrophe scenario).

Data potholes can also include stale data, such as in social and economic data (which always has a short shelf life). But ongoing and continuous data updates can be expensive, and using smaller data snapshots is a common compromise. Then there is data lag--a delay in response between a cause and effect that can range from minutes to years (e.g., birth defects triggered by a genetic disease or toxic exposure from decades before), thus complicating the accuracy of any causal analysis.

Finally, there is the challenge of data translation, where cross analysis between domains (e.g., between social and economic data) is complicated by disconnects across language, concepts, or assumptions.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Foresight as Dialogue: As the World Changes, We May Need to Modify Our Methods of Forecasting to Better Make Sense of Change. Yet We Must Not Discard the Still-Relevant Wisdom of the Past. the President of the World Future Society Lags out Some "Rules of the Road" for Forecasting That Draw a Middle Path between Inclusiveness and Adaptation on One Hand, and Discretion and Convention on the Other
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.