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Chapter 16

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York University
Social Science
SOSC 1880

Chapter 16: What Problems Are on the Way? The future is a social construct alone. It doesn’t exist yet; we have to imagine it, based on current trends, hopes, wishes, fears, and calculations of chance. What is Future Studies? • It is the area of research concerned with forecasting possible scenarios—technological, economic, political, social, environmental—in order to prepare for and shape what may come. • Humans will not inevitably repeat the past but neither are they likely to depart completely from past behaviour. Alternative Forecasting Methods • Genius forecasting: relies mainly on intuition and insight • Trend extrapolation: examines trends and cycles in historical data; it uses mathematical techniques to predict the future from the past. • Consensus methods of forecasting: experts make judgments on the likelihood of certain outcomes and then evaluate the opinions and answers given by their peers. • Stimulation methods: uses analogs to model complex systems → Game analogs may be used to model the interactions of players in imagined social interactions—for example, in studying negotiation and bargaining. • Scenario method: a narrative forecast that describes a potential course of events. Asking the following questions: o Can we survive the worst possible scenario? o Will we be happy with the most likely scenario? o Are we able to take advantage of the best possible scenario? • Decision trees: are graphical devices to help illustrate the relationships between choices. Theoretical Perspectives on Future Studies Structural • Future studies look into alternative futures and identify the most probable social Functionalism trends. • Looking to the future encourages people to reflect on current patterns of events and to make adjustments to prevent social problems to occur in the future. Conflict Theory • Different forecasting and stimulation methods produce different insights into the probability of certain events occurring that may favour one population subgroup over another. Symbolic • Gossip and rumour may spread misinformation and create moral panic or fear Interactionism • The rise of cyberspace and virtual communities hides many social factors (i.e. gender, race, and class) that often prevent similar people from interacting with one another. Feminist Theory •
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