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Complexity and systems thinking in futures research: From “neutral” scenarios to value considerations

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Futures research can be defined as the study of the present from a point of view of a special interest in comprehending the future. The basic features of futures research include multidisciplinarity and normativity, as well as interest in studying “trend breaks” and new phenomena in social development. In practice these requirements are seldom fulfilled, and a search for a new “paradigm” for futures research has been going on for some years. The implications of the newly arisen “complexity” discussion seem to offer some new perspectives to tackle the short-comings of futures research. Especially the idea of multiverse of realities, “holistic” systems thinking, and irreversibility and randomness seen as inherent parts of social development can be considered as highly valuable to the methodological development of futures research. When taking into consideration these implications it is justified to speak of a transition from the ordinary scenario thinking to the idea of “making the future” in futures research.

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Mannermaa, M. Complexity and systems thinking in futures research: From “neutral” scenarios to value considerations. Systems Practice 1, 279–295 (1988).

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Key words

  • futures research
  • complexity view
  • systems thinking