Futurology & Future StudiesMuch of this website is concerned with predicting the future in one way or another, be it via esoteric methods such as crystal balls or more modern methods such psi and precogniton. Those methods are far from universally respected, however futurology or future studies is far more respectable.
What is Futurology?Futurology is simply the process of attempting to predict future trends and events by studying and extrapolating from the current situation and historic precedent. It encompasses together many other disciplines and forms of "trend watching". Futurology is thus based on logic, probability and reasoning techniques rather than intuition, psychic power or paranormal abilities. That said, intuition is a powerful tool for futurologists to use in conjunction with logic.
Futurology takes many forms - the daily weather forecast is a form of futurology, albeit an unexciting one. The term is more well known in association with larger scale predictions of global trends often involving macro-economics, sociology and politics. It's rare for a futurologist to predict one specific scenario, instead predictions are usually probabilistic and involve presenting alternative possible scenarios.
The word futurology today is usually taken to be a subclass of "future studies" - the latter term includes wider analysis of causes and effects and often involves methods such as backcasting to try and work out how we got the our current situation. The interplay of forces in the past can give a greater understanding of the current actors for change and the likely outcomes of their interacton.
Futurology is difficult and unreliable, however successful predictions can be extremely useful - and profitable. For this reason many government and companies employ individuals or teams dedicated to future studies in areas that might be relevant to them. Because of the potential value of a successful prediction, the work of these experts is rarely made public.
In fiction the most famous futurologist was probably Hari Seldon from Isaac Asimov's Foundation stories.
External Links: World Future Society (WFS)