WorldView 2002: A Future for Futurists

Sunday afternoon began with "A Future for Futurists," run by three founding members of the new Association of Professional Futurists (APF), Andy Hines, Richard Lum and Michele Bowman. It seemed to be an attempt to both launch the group into wider knowledge but also canvas opinion as to what it should be doing. The APF see themselves as "third generation futurists" -- the first generation being the founding fathers of the field such as Herman Kahn and Hazel Henderson, and the second generation those who started companies and brought the field to a wider audience: Jim Dator, Theodore Gordon, Joe Coates, Clement Bezold, et al. The third generation have mostly trained at the futures programmes in either Houston or Hawaii and worked as futurists for several years.

Discussion was, shall we say, lively, particularly when it came to the worth, or otherwise, of professional certification, one of the APF's possible functions. Some think we should be as inclusive as possible -- we want everyone to think about the future, so why then say that only APF accredited people can call themselves futurists? Curmudgeonly Joe Coates countered from the back of the room with the analogy that someone isn't called a dentist just because they brush their teeth everyday. My friend John Blackwell, on the other hand, suggested that we don't have a problem with someone calling themselves an artist if they don't make a living from their work.

It's a difficult balancing act. The APF reception, held later at the Ritz-Carlton hotel, seemed a little smug and any association that has membership criteria is, by definition, exclusive. However, as a discussion with old classmates over dinner later agreed, there's also a need to distinguish futurists with genuine skills and training from, say, talking heads who pop up on TV shows predicting outlandish things. So maybe a professional organisation is the slightly bitter pill that needs to be swallowed in an attempt to attach at least a little credibility to the term "futurist."

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