• Stephan Raab

“Working with the Future” by Roberto Poli

Have you ever thought about what might happen tomorrow, maybe even a tomorrow after the pandemic? Dealing with predictions never seems to be easy, especially when they refer to the future. “Working with the future” provides a thoughtful and creative introduction into the world of future science. The author inspires to delve deeper into looking forward what might come.

Between failure and future- What is future studies?

I am a failed sociologist”, the author welcomes the reader on this journey to future[1]. Roberto Poli is a professor for philosophy and science at the University of Trento and UNESCO Chair for Anticipatory Systems. Dealing with his failure as a sociologist Poli gives a simple answer: “The sociology I have studied since being young was completely reverted to the back. There was no kind of forward-looking framework, no frame where to fit in the future”[2]. Often, he bemoans, it seems that social sciences still focus too much on looking backward. Obviously, societies are aware that things are changing, but he argues that for many the tomorrow is just a prolongation of the today. However, diverse conceptions of the future provide a valuable source for social science. This way the self-perception of a society becomes obvious. Put in other words, said conception of the future reveals what a certain society is about through what it aspires and strives for. Consequently, time and change over time are socially embedded constructs, which define the conception of what is happening now, what might happen in the future, as what might be needed to make this future possible. This is what the sociologist George Wallis termed as “Chronopolitics”[3]or to be more precise: “The history of culture is the history of its images of the future"[4]. At the beginning it is clarified what futurology is like as what it is definitely not.

There are two kinds of stereotypes associated with future science. On the one side there is the image, that futurology is like clairvoyance, looking forward through the lenses of a crystal ball. On the other side, there is the image, that futurology is like a prophet promising to predict what will change in the future. Neither of both seems to be suitable, as the world is more complex. Dealing with that subject is working with the power of being surprised of what might happen.