Magazine article The Futurist

The World Future Society at 40: First Impressions; A Staff Writer and Editor Recalls the World Future Society's Humble Atmosphere and Grand Aspirations

Magazine article The Futurist

The World Future Society at 40: First Impressions; A Staff Writer and Editor Recalls the World Future Society's Humble Atmosphere and Grand Aspirations

Article excerpt

The World Future Society was born on a back porch in Bethesda, Maryland, just north of Washington, D.C. Its founding staff consisted of journalist Ed Cornish (who had left his full-time job at the National Geographic Society to take this challenge on), his brave wife Sally, their three young sons, and a handful of neighborhood volunteers. By the time I arrived a decade later, the Society had graduated to a "suite" of offices above a beauty parlor several blocks closer to downtown. But the back-porch atmosphere remained. Creative chaos was the norm.

In the 1970s and 1980s, any visitor climbing the drab stairs to the Society's few, dark, unair-conditioned rooms, piled high with boxes, papers, and equipment, saw at once that appearance mattered very little here. WFS devoted every inch of space and every ounce of effort from its staff and volunteers to producing THE FUTURIST magazine, a quarterly series of special-focus newsletters, and a long-term book project to compile a resource directory of individuals, organizations, books, films, and other learning/teaching tools for exploring trends and future social options.

WFS and the Future

The World Future Society might look rough around the edges, I decided, but its heart was in the right place and its priorities were clear--do the work of being a futurist and let others look the part. I began writing book reviews as a volunteer, and, when a paid job opened up, eagerly became a full-time copy editor.

The Society's goal, as we then described it, was to be "an impartial clearinghouse for a variety of different views" on future options. Importantly, the Society declined to ever "take positions on what will or should happen in the future."

I applauded this decision, and still do. It meant that all points of view--reactionary, radical, middle-of-the-road, and just plain wacky--would be welcomed (or at least not turned away without consideration) in WFS publications and meetings. Still I must admit the range of future possibilities being explored seemed far less ominous back then.

Optimists, like F.M. Esfandiary, were confident that worldwide progress in science and technology would quickly produce sweeping social change as material abundance and reasoned dialogue replaced outdated conservative right-wing vs. liberal left-wing worldviews with a unifying "Up-wing" focus on future opportunities for all. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.