The State of the Future – Horizons of Development

The book The State of the Future is part of a series of futurologist reports, prepared by the organization Millennium Project since 1996. They provide a snap diagnosis (always referring to the present with an eye to the future) of the state of humanity through the description of the most threatening risks, but also its best opportunities.

Together with it, their standout merit is their offering of solutions to overcome the dangers and a roadmap for implementation of prospects. The dominant trend in the scientific literature today is the limited in its ascertainment part analysis, devoid of vision and possible solutions. This is essentially the invisible sustainer of unwanted status quo in many areas.

There are two approaches to the future

One is descriptive, which objectively and impartially outlines possible and probable trends and tendencies. The other is normative – different values and goals create different expectations for the future. This is most visible through the different ideologies – liberalism, neo-liberalism, conservatism, Marxism, socialism, as well as political doctrines, programs, strategies. The clashes of these ideologies are clashes of alternative visions for the future – what to do, what is acceptable and what is not, what is dangerous and what is not.

The State of the Future brilliantly combines both approaches, giving us the chance to shape the future according to our values and goals, knowing, however, its objective dimensions

The values asserted in the book are universal,

although some of them are placed in a regional context. A book with similar scientific profile is being published for the first time in Bulgaria since the changed social situation in 1989, if we exclude some publications in the artistic-popular genre. Previously, in the 1970s and 1980s, such literature was published and written in the style of the planned economy.

Futurology, also known as the research of the future (future studies), is a scientific discipline that studies the future. It analyzes the sources, patterns and causes of stability (which for it is the analogy of predictability) and change (expected and unexpected by humanity). The aim of futurology is to develop and improve the tools of forecasting and identifying the many alternative moves for the future. It uses scientifically-substantiated assertions of expected possible, probable, desirable and undesirable variations and transformations of the present in the future, socially or naturally. It was defined as a concept in 1943 by German sociologist Osip Flechtheim and designates a new share of knowledge that includes a different angle to the theory of probability, addressed to the future.

The Bulgarian audience knowns mostly the “fiction image” of the future

through authors who are emblematic in science fiction, such as Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, George Orwell, Stanislaw Lem, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, but not the true futurologist literature.

Bertrand de Jouvenel was the first one to highlight the possibility to influence the future. In his work “L’Art de la conjecture” (1967) he opposes the terms “facta” and “futura”, as the first is knowledge of the past and the second is an image not consistent with some historical reality. The concept of the future as a territory for (re)action is a turning point in the work of politicians, visionaries and strategists. For Jouvenel

the future is not fantasy, but an opportunity

a project through which we have the power to validate a particular concept. Since the introduction of the concept of “futurology”, the terminology serving the field of the future sees constant conceptual change. In the course of its development, different concepts such “futurible”, “conjecture”, “prospective”, “futuring”, “foresight”, “strategic planning”, and “visionary management” became part of it. The producing of so many concepts in the course of time is a response to the growing need to find an adequate tool to explain the uncertainty, instability and change in an increasingly globalized world.

Natural forces, social and political dynamics, scientific discoveries and technological innovations greatly determine the future. The human capacity has developed to such extend so that our choices are increasingly able to influence the future. Mankind cannot control the future, but it can change the course of some events. Similar influence gives meaning to the effort to seek balance between what we want and what is possible.

The purpose of the reports, part of which is The State of the Future, is to systematically explore, create and test both the probable and the desirable future to improve the process of decision-making by political and community leaders, scientists, business people and others. By examining the global change and the global strategic landscape

The authors of the book track 15 global challenges

that are transnational in nature and require transdisciplinary approaches and beyond institutional decision-making. The analysis and forecasts for these challenges help create the “Index of the State of the Future” which marks the fields where humanity progresses, loses ground and or makes little progress.

Why is the book important for Bulgaria? The description of climate change around the world provides answers to many open questions. Large migration flows are expected until 2030-2050 due to these changes. Is our country prepared to cope with the new influx of “climate refugees”, as it is situated in the corridor of relocation? Bulgaria wastes over 50% of its drinking water due to outdated and poorly functioning pipelines on the backdrop of forecast that by 2030, half the world will be without fresh water.

Global freedom as a democratic value decreases.

The same is true of press freedom. This trend is expected to grow in the future at the expense of the so-called modern authoritarianism. The book lists organized crime, corruption, concentration of media ownership, corporate monopolies, increased lobbying and feeling of impunity as the main threats to democracy.

We can clearly imagine where Bulgaria would be, according to this scale. In a more abstract way, we can build predictions about what would be the social behavior of people over the emergence and widespread use of new technologies. Today, mobile phones are our omnipresent electronic companions. They combine everything – phone, computer, alarm clock, organizer, music player; there are more than one million applications for smartphones. And this leads to alienation in interpersonal communication and its replacement with other forms

In the social sphere, income inequality and youth unemployment are cited as the biggest problems. It is obvious that youth unemployment is not only a structural problem, as it is considered here, but also a global one, which can provide to us new approaches to solve it. Besides the multiple reflections that the book provokes, The State of the Future gives answers and creates attitudes about the future. And the vision for the future can generate long-term policies, strategies and plans for the desired such future.




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