Futurology (or Futures studies) is the analysis of cause and effect trends for the purpose of predicting possible, probable, and prescriptive outcomes to present day scenarios. While industry and liberal arts have the luxury of dividing historical perspectives into distinct disciplines, Futurology examines the necessary intertwining of advancements and expectations in economics, sociology, engineering, mathematics, biology, pedagogy, and many other disciplines.
Futurology can be used to warn society of a possible undesirable future for the purpose of avoiding it. In regard to predictions of widespread chaos associated with the Millennium bug, for instance, futurologists claim that society heeded the evidence presented and took steps to avoid the catastrophe. Yet in cases of successful futurology warnings, it is impossible to prove through direct evidence the difference between a catastrophe averted and an incorrect prediction, even after the fact.
By the same token, popular futurologists like Ray Kurzweil (The Singularity Is Near) predict futures that exceed our expectations. In doing so, they are often accused of creating self-fulfilling prophecies. Kurzweil's books generally review predictions from previous writings to show their accuracy, and then make forecasts for the future. Since the popularity of these books cannot help but raise people's expectations, they are sure to create a demand for the technology that is prophesied. As a result, to some extent Kurzweil is not only predicting the future, but also creating it.
Nature of the Future
Even if we knew everything about our current universe, even if the future didn't also depend on the quantum random element, and even if technology didn't change the future ramifications of historic events, predictions only have a practical effect if they somehow alter our actions in the present. Of course, any differing action in the present will also change the future, thus affecting the prediction. For these reasons, futurology uses a unique set of theoretical models and deductive methods for describing the likelihood of an event and the conditions under which it is prone to occur. This textbook investigates these models and methods, and explores the practical applications for their use.