The futures of futures studies
Pushing the boundaries of futures thinking
25 October 2023 (Wednesday), 11:00-13:00, imagine3

The continuing story of the future as a liminal ethical space for the present

Authors: Ted Fuller , Narcis Heraclide, Anne Marchais-Roubelat, Fabrice Roubelat, April K Ward
This paper explores a conceptual basis for the study of responsibility in the processes of foresight and anticipation. In recent history, the ethical purposes of Futures Studies reflect the contemporary dominant problematique and appear divided on their orientation to save humanity from itself (e.g. Hans Jonas) or and/to advance the hope of greater fulfilment for humanity (e.g. Lewis Mumford, Ernst Bloch). Futures Studies has been seen as addressing the futures of morality (e.g. Geoffrey VIckers). The growth in professional foresight practices has also seen reflexive moves to codify ethics for such practices (e.g. Richard Slaughter). Current publications reflect developments and variations on these key themes. For this conference, the perspective taken by this paper is the liminal nature of the space between present actions and future consequences. This is not a temporal space per se, although of course there is concern for future effects of current actions. Nor is it geographically spatial. It is a space of the imagination, of the construction of values, of understanding what is good, desirable and what is bad and undesirable. The space, which may also include rites qualifies as a liminal space as it offers transitionary power: to rethink, to re-frame, to re-evaluate. More generally, and categorically significant for Futures Studies, the paper considers whether a reframing of anticpation as ‘life itself’ offers a transitionary critical life change for epistemology. This question explores the body of work of Futures Studies as a contribution to moral epistemology to take greater account of anticipation and corresponding responsibilities.

UNESCO Chair on Responsible Foresight for Sustainable Development
University of Lincoln