Contemporary Futurist Thought: Table of Contents

Contemporary Futurist Thought - Begins with an in-depth examination of the highly influential literary genre of science fiction - “the mythology of the future.” The next chapter describes the modern academic discipline of future studies which attempts to apply scientific methods and principles to an understanding of the future. Social and technological trends in the twentieth century are then reviewed, setting the stage for an analysis of the great “contemporary transformation” occurring in our present world. Given the powerful and pervasive changes taking place across the globe and throughout all aspects of human life, the questions arise: Where are we potentially heading and, perhaps more importantly, where should we be heading? The final chapter provides an extensive review of different answers to these questions. Describing theories and approaches that highlight science, technology, culture, human psychology, and religion, among other areas of focus, as well as integrative views which attempt to provide big pictures of all aspects of human life, the book provides a rich and broad overview of contemporary ideas and visions about the future. In the conclusion, Dr. Lombardo assesses and synthesizes these myriad perspectives, proposing a set of key ideas central to understanding the future.

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Book Reviews

This volume is much more eclectic than the usual review of the field, enfolding the ‘zeitgeist’ of the study of the future as well as the methodology.  The author does this by including some of the less traditional expressions of futures thinking, including an extensive review of science fiction as it is relevant to futurist thinking.  Lombardo looks at science fiction not as just an entertainment medium, but as it captures spiritual and mythic themes and he quotes some of the deeper practitioners of that field, including the incomparable Olaf Stapleton and the thoughtful HG Wells.  This sensitivity to the underlying cultural currents (which of course shape all foresight work) is evident in a quote taken from Neil Postman. “What Orwell feared were those who would ban books.  What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one.”  And unfortunately, both of these dystopian visions have now come to pass in some way.  

Lombardo points out that beginning with the work of HG Wells, future studies evolved beyond mere methodology for ‘prediction’ to assessments of human society and normative proposals for improvement.  And he quotes Ed Cornish concerning the movement away from the ‘scientific’ belief in progress after World War II toward a more value-oriented recognition of the role of uncertainty in future-studies…restated by Mike Marien as the categorization of futures into ‘possible, probable, and preferable.’

However, this ‘Western scientific view’ of futures was soon expanded by scholars like Richard Slaughter in a call to look beyond technology and rationalism to the humanistic and intuitive elements of a more integral (objective/subjective, individual/social) vision of how the future unfolds. What is refreshing about this book is Lombardo’s willingness to look at these often opposed viewpoints in their own context and accept each of them as part of the large future studies universe. Although he has his biases, he states them clearly and gives all sides a fair hearing.

And as foresight continued to evolve, he notes that the growth of new disciplines such as complexity and chaos theory, creativity dynamics, open systems, quantum mechanics and the study of unintended consequences brought a fresh and energizing influence to the futures field.  Indeed it sometimes seems to this reviewer that the ongoing debates between various ‘schools’ of futuring concerning their perceived strengths and weaknesses may serve as a sort of Social Darwinism, that challenges and improves the tools and techniques of these various schools of futurist thought.    

In a wider context, Dr. Lombardo relates the themes of change, growth, fundamentalism, cultural evolution and even temporal physics to the larger world and how these futures concepts play out in conflicts over sustainability, religion, freedom, organizational behavior, cultural pluralism and science policy.  While it is not within the range of this review to do justice to the richness and depth of this compendium, the author has worked heroically to do justice to the complexity of futures thinking and capture the thought of nearly all of its leading thinkers.

Timothy C. Mack
President, World Future Society
 


 

Futures thinking is more than making predictions - 5 Stars on Amazon

 

(RE:  CONTEMPORARY FUTURIST THOUGHT) 

One of the things that intrigues me about this book and its companion volume THE EVOLUTION OF FUTURE CONSCIOUSNESS is their implicit conviction that thinking seriously about the future is a central element in human cognition, past and present, and that as it evolves it necessarily goes well beyond making predictions.   I also like its well-informed treatment of science fiction (which I have sometimes thought could as appropriately be called evolutionary fiction) as a complement and equal to academic and technological future studies.

Walter Truett Anderson

President, World Academy of Art and Science
 


A prime resource for Futures Studies and Futures Foresight - 5 Stars on Amazon

Anyone interested in the future would find "Contemporary Futurist Thought" a notable resource that thoroughly reviews the various theories and paradigms, along with the modern thinkers and writers who made significant contributions to futures thinking.

Dr. Lombardo meritoriously examines the creative influences that emerge from science fiction, the systematic approaches taken in the future studies field, and the prodigious array of contemporary thought. All the pertinent people and materials are recognized throughout, which makes this book a relevant foundation for both, students of futures studies and professional futurists.

His explanations regarding futurists' roles, purposes for futures thinking and his delineation of the disagreements within the field alleviates the confusion often felt by students and professional futurists attempting to decipher the field of futures studies or to establish a consensus of future foresight, which Lombardo acknowledges as a field that has "no unified community."

I highly recommend this book as a reference source for academia and as a refresher for professionals to enrich their perspectives on the direction futures thinking is headed.

J. E. Foltz
Phoenix Arizona


5 Stars on Amazon

I think [Contemporary Futurist Thought] is a great contribution not only to futurists and the futures field but also to general intellectuals, academics in many disciplines, and even to the popular culture and the ordinary reader. 

In Contemporary Futurist Thought Thomas Lombardo has written a great book.  He brilliantly brings together his encyclopedic knowledge of science fiction and futures studies—all within the intellectual history of the world’s top philosophers, theologians, and scientists. He is a master guide, taking his readers on a fascinating tour of four overlapping intellectual worlds. The first is science fiction, whose power and importance to understanding contemporary social change he brings to life like no other writer. The second is the growing scholarly field of futures studies, which he reveals as a thrilling drama of the human struggle to understand the future. In his discussions of the third world of trends in the 20th century and the fourth world of theories and visions of the future, Lombardo inspires, entertains, informs, mesmerizes, and at times even terrifies his readers with his accounts of the powerful images of humanity’s possible futures that are today competing to shape the human future.

[He] has written a must-read book for futurists.  …he has done what no other futurist has yet accomplished by critically summarizing the modern field of futures studies in the context of a detailed analysis of science fiction. It is a brilliant performance, informed, fair-minded, reliable, and powerful. Non-futurist readers, too, will be fascinated by this book, because Lombardo vividly captures “the vast wondrous drama of the future” that affects all of humanity.

From the genesis of science fiction to its Golden Age and from the history, goals and methods of futures studies to its major theories and visions of the future, Thomas Lombardo in Contemporary Futurist Thought tells the story of the wondrous drama of the future. He has written a masterpiece ….  This book is essential reading for every futurist. And it is essential, too, for any reader who wants to know what the future holds.

Wendell Bell
Professor Emeritus
Yale University


“An awesome (and ambitious) synthesis of many people and ideas… For an overview of generalist futures thought and sci-fi, Lombardo’s work is the equal of quite different overviews by Wendell Bell, Ed Cornish, and Rick Slaughter.”

Michael Marien
Future Survey


Copthorne Macdonald's review of Contemporary Futurist Thought submitted to Amazon.com

The story of the future and us - 5 Stars on Amazon

I can't imagine a more comprehensive look at humanity's interest in, study of, and planning for our future than Thomas Lombardo has presented us with in his two recently published books, THE EVOLUTION OF FUTURE CONSCIOUSNESS, which focuses on the nature and development of "future consciousness" from ancient times through the 19th century, and CONTEMPORARY FUTURIST THOUGHT which focuses on expressions of future consciousness in the 20th and 21st centuries.

In CONTEMPORARY FUTURIST THOUGHT, Lombardo reviews in detail several 20th and 21st-century movements, or centers of interest and activity, that focus on the future. They include the science fiction phenomenon from Jules Verne and H.G. Wells to recent movies and TV shows, "future studies" in its academic and professional forms, and a concluding section on "Theories and Paradigms of the Future."

I found this last section particularly interesting. Here, Lombardo presents a wide range of contemporary views. Some of these are deterministic; they argue for a predetermined future of one kind or another. Others argue for a future determined by human values and conscious decisions. Lombardo notes that, "A common position held by many members of The World Future Society is that the future is a set of possibilities rather than one definite trajectory. Because the future is possibilities, humans have a choice in what future will be realized. Most futurists in fact talk as if they believe that the decisions made today will influence what our future will be like. We are not passive victims of supernatural destiny or natural laws."

I resonated deeply with Lombardo's closing statement: "I think that the cultivation of wisdom is an essential ingredient to creating a positive future. Wisdom integrates intellect, emotion, and action. Wisdom is grounded in an expansive awareness of the whole that acknowledges and values other people and their points of view, and involves the recognition of human fallibility and the need for courage, faith, and tempered optimism in the face of the uncertainty of the future. Wisdom is the highest expression of human development and future consciousness. If our minds are evolving and we are moving toward a New Enlightenment, then I would suggest that the essence of the New Enlightenment will be the individual and collective development of wisdom."


 

Once in a while a book is written that brings together emerging ideas and historical context that spawned those ideas. In his new book, Contemporary Futurist Thought, Tom Lombardo has struck just the right balance between the evolution of futurist thinking, from H.G. Wells to Alvin Toffler, and how newly emerging concepts are fundamental to the transformation of our world as we shift from an Industrial Age to a Biological Age based on an explosion of new knowledge. Dr. Lombardo brings together a brilliant analysis of the impact of a hundred years of science fiction, and, at the same time, introduces the reader to cutting edge 21st century thinking in a rare synthesis of intellectual force and compelling drama that helps to explain this age of historical transformation. Contemporary Futurist Thought is both readable and excitedly challenging, and should be required reading, whether a student in high school or college, a city manager, a local leader or a business entrepreneur. Effective decisions for a constantly changing society cannot be made in a vacuum or in a context of traditional and obsolete thinking. Contemporary Futurist Thought provides a needed context of futures thinking readymade for those individuals who want to make a difference and help give meaning to the emerging 21st century.

Rick Symre

President - Communities of the Future

 


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