Appendix 3. Resources – Media and Tools for Better Futures

Top Introductory Foresight Books – A Starter List

Below are our current most-recommended reads for foresight practitioners near the beginnings of their careers, or seeking to renew them. A much longer list of professional foresight books follows on the next page. Did we miss any of your favorites? Let us know. If you will be skimming any of these excellent books in coming weeks, you may benefit from our active reading tips in Chapter 6 (Methods and Frameworks). Enjoy!

  1. Bold, Diamandis & Kotler (2015) A global, acceleration-aware, innovation and entrepreneurial approach to foresight. Great for visioning, goalsetting, and motivation.
  2. Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress, Steven Pinker (2018). Explores how our increasingly evidence-based and cooperative societies, and science and technology themselves, are accelerating human progress around the world. In those places where it isn’t, we need better foresight, ethics, and collective action to rise to our challenges. Our next-gen web and personal AIs, as learning systems, will help us greatly in that regard. No book is perfect, and Pinker unfortunately downplays the corrosive effects of plutocracy. He also does not see the growing problem (and the solutions) for creating safe, moral artificial intelligence. Otherwise, this book is excellent.
  3. Future Savvy: Quality in Foresight, Adam Gordon (2008) Good intro to trend identification, forecasting. Also very helpful for recognizing and mitigating bias.
  4. Infinite Progress: How Tech Ends Ignorance, Disease, Poverty, and War, Byron Reese (2013) How science and technology acceleration, and human cooperation, drive progress. Better understanding and using science and technology has become the primary way to significantly improve our personal, organizational, and global futures.
  5. Learning from the Future: Competitive Foresight Scenarios, Fahey & Randall (1998) Still the best guide to using scenarios to reduce uncertainty, find opportunities and manage risk. An inspiring blend of managing the unpredictable (evo) and uncovering the predictable (devo).
  6. Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, Max Tegmark (2017). Great general intro, by a top physicist, to the many emerging varieties of our increasingly biology-derived AI, and the challenges using these learning systems in the most humanizing ways we can. It loses a few points for its proposal that our military should ban R&D on AI-against-human combat systems. That is naive, as our Department of Defense needs to be the best at employing such systems to counter rogue actors using AI. This book also ignores machine morality, artificial immune systems, and artificial selection. Just as our AI is increasingly borrowing from natural neural network processes to be more effective, it will borrow our natural approach to social morality, empathy, and immunity as well. We will use testing and selection to domesticate them like we domesticated our animals. We won’t let the unethical ones breed, and keep plenty of ethical and loyal AIs around to police the rogue AIs that will occasionally emerge. Otherwise, this book is excellent.
  7. Predictive Analytics, Eric Siegel (2013) Great overview of a new foresight frontier: data science, data mining, probabilistic prediction, and machine learning. As the web gets smarter and the world gets instrumented, this fields will continue to rapidly advance. We’ll see our near-term probable future, and the preferences currently expressed, with ever greater clarity.
  8. Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction, Philip E. Tetlock and Dan Gardner (2015) A tour-de-force intro to how cognitively diverse teams, using evidence from a variety of sources, thinking probabilistically, keeping score, and learning from error, can radically improve our ability to predict.
  9. The Fortune Sellers: The Big Business of Buying & Selling Predictions, William Sherden (1999) Sherden holds an indefensible perspective that many aspects of our future are not increasingly predictable. But there is a high threshold for doing good prediction, and many ways to fail, oversell, and overclaim. Sherden’s work brilliantly highlights the challenges and hazards of prediction, and is a great complement to Superforecasting.
  10. The Fourth Age: Smart Robots, Conscious Computers, and the Future of Humanity, Byron Reese (2018) A truly excellent Big Picture overview of the single most important outcome of accelerating change: artificial intelligences will keep emerging, at an ever faster pace, over the remainder of the 21st century. In the long run, this emergence is very highly likely to be good, in my and Reese’s view. But unless we cultivate foresight, we can take some pretty bad paths to a much more intelligent and antifragile future. The choice is ours.
  11. The Future: A Very Short Introduction, Jennifer Gidley (2018) Gidley is past-president of the World Futures Studies Federation, an academic community that has long been promoting the advance of foresight thinking and education. This is a great, concise, and historically-informed introduction to our emerging field.
  12. The Inevitable: Understanding the Twelve Technological Forces that Will Shape Our Future, Kevin Kelly (2016) A great guide to technological megatrends that will shape our future for the next twenty years, from a master big picture thinker. I predict megatrend two, cognifying, is more central and important to our future than even Kelly presently acknowledges.
  13. The Infinite Resource: The Power of Ideas on a Finite Planet, Ramez Naam (2013) A sober account of the environmental cost of economic growth to date, and an intro to the dematerialized, sustainable world of the coming information age. Only human ideas, tech, and collaboration are powerful enough to solve the problems we’ve created with tech.
  14. The Rough Guide to the Future, Jon Turney (2010) Great popular intro to the long history and practice of foresight. Not very development-aware however.
  15. The Second Machine Age, Brynjolfsson and McAfee (2014) Great intro to accelerating technical productivity, some social and political implications of that productivity, and why most economists still don’t know how to model our exponential future.
  16. The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail, But Some Don’t, Nate Silver (2012) Conversational intro to the emerging practice of statistical foresight. One way our field will be legitimated.
  17. Think Like a Futurist, Cecily Sommers (2012) Inspiring and very accessible intro to the strategic benefits and thinking processes of foresight.
  18. Thinking about the Future: Guidelines for Strategic Foresight, Bishop and Hines (2007) Great overview of six key strategic foresight activities, with concise practitioner examples.
  19. Who Can You Trust: How Technology Brought Us Together and Why it Might Drive Us Apart, Rachel Botsman (2017) An intro to a critically future-important topic–our need to greatly improve trust, reputation, and value creation on the web. Botsman covers distributed rating systems and the promise of blockchain-based platforms to improve transparency and accountability, and shift more power and wealth back to individual actors.
  20. WTF?: What’s the Future and Why It’s Up to Us, Tim O’Reilly (2017) Excellent history of our digital economy, from a Silicon Valley insider, and practical prescriptions for revising the political and economic algorithms in our ever more wealthy and AI-infused economy, to focus them on improving triple bottom line social benefits, over maximizing profits.
Showing 2 comments
  • Jennifer Gidley
    Reply

    Hi John Smart,

    Great resource you have here. I’ve been aware of it for a while but couldn’t quite work out who was behind it. I’ve now navigated my way around and see it is you driving it largely anyway. Congratulations! I also see that you have listed me as an academic (scholar-educator) and a leader in foresight. Thanks for that.

    Are you aware of my new Oxford University Press book: The Future: A Very Short Introduction?
    https://global.oup.com/academic/product/the-future-a-very-short-introduction-9780198735281

    Don’t be put of by the title ‘The Future’ (singular) – it is very much about ‘Futures’ (plural) as I am sure you can imagine if written my me…

    It came out last year and is being taken up very well by the futures and foresight community. And also by the wider world, which is brilliant.

    Do you know it? If not, I encourage you to get hold of a copy and I am confident that you will want to list it is as an important introductory resource.
    It is also valuable for experienced futurists and foresight practitioners as I go pretty deeply into the history of futures studies and the various strands of practice.

    Cheers,

    Jennifer Gidley

    • John Smart
      Reply

      Hi Jennifer,
      Thank you for this! Congratulations on an excellent book. I’ve just read it and really enjoyed it. I hadn’t seen it yet, as I am still heads down finishing the first version of the Guide. I will add it to our list of Top Foresight books, as it is a great and concise general intro to our field.
      Warmest Regards,
      John

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