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Threatcasting is a conceptual framework used to help multidisciplinary groups envision future scenarios. It is also a process that enables systematic planning against threats ten years in the future. Utilizing the threatcasting process, groups explore possible future threats and how to transform the future they desire into reality while avoiding undesired futures. Threatcasting is a continuous, multiple-step process with inputs from social science, technical research, cultural history, economics, trends, expert interviews, and science fiction storytelling. These inputs inform the exploration of potential visions of the future.
Once inputs are explored for impact and application, participants create a science fiction story (science fiction prototyping) based ten years in the future to add context around human activity. Science Fiction Prototyping consists of a future story about a person in a place doing a thing. The threatcasting process results in creation of many potential futures scenarios—some futures are desirable while others are not. Identifying both types of futures (desirable and undesirable) will help the participant recognize which future to aim toward, and which to avoid. Utilizing the scenarios, participants plot actions necessary in the present and at various intervals working toward the ten year future scenario. These actions will help participants understand how to empower or disrupt the target future scenario. Flags (warning events) are also determined in order to map societal indicators onto the recommended path toward the targeted future. When identified flags appear in society, threatcasting participants map these back to the original forecast to see whether or not they are on track toward the target future scenario.
The notion of threatcasting can be traced back to Brian David Johnson, an applied futurist, who first began using threatcasting, also referred to as futurecasting, in 2011 and to George Hemingway of the Stratalis Group,who pioneered notion of futurecasting for corporate strategy and innovation industrial markets, including mining in the same year. Early adopters of threatcasting include the United States Air Force Academy, the Government of California, and the Army Cyber Institute at West Point Military Academy. Official use of the term threatcasting is attributed to Brian David Johnson in a 2014 Gazette article “Drones, smart hydrants considered by experts looking at future of firefighting.”
Threatcasting is different from traditional strategic planning and scenario analysis processes due to the identification of specific actions, indicators and concrete steps that can be taken today to disrupt, mitigate and recover from future threats.
The Army Cyber Institute at West Point in conjunction with Arizona State University's Global Securities Initiative and the School for the Future of Innovation in Society have established a Threatcasting Lab to host and manage a Cyber Threatcasting Project which looks to envision future cyber threats ten years in the future. The first session of this collaborative group was held at West Point, NY in August 2016.
The Delphi method or Delphi technique is a structured communication technique or method, originally developed as a systematic, interactive forecasting method which relies on a panel of experts. The technique can also be adapted for use in face-to-face meetings, and is then called mini-Delphi or Estimate-Talk-Estimate (ETE). Delphi has been widely used for business forecasting and has certain advantages over another structured forecasting approach, prediction markets.
Scenario planning, also called scenario thinking or scenario analysis, is a strategic planning method that some organizations use to make flexible long-term plans. It is in large part an adaptation and generalization of classic methods used by military intelligence.
Futurists are people whose specialty or interest is futurology or the attempt to systematically explore predictions and possibilities about the future and how they can emerge from the present, whether that of human society in particular or of life on Earth in general.
Futures studies, also called futurology, is the study of postulating possible, probable, and preferable futures and the worldviews and myths that underlie them. In general, it can be considered as a branch of the social sciences and parallel to the field of history. Futures studies seeks to understand what is likely to continue and what could plausibly change. Part of the discipline thus seeks a systematic and pattern-based understanding of past and present, and to determine the likelihood of future events and trends.
Strategic foresight is a planning-oriented discipline related to futures studies, the study of the future. In a business context, a more action-oriented approach has become well known as corporate foresight.
In futurology, especially in Europe, the term "foresight" has become widely used to describe activities such as:
Futures techniques used in the multi-disciplinary field of futurology by futurists in Americas and Australasia, and futurology by futurologists in EU, include a diverse range of forecasting methods, including anticipatory thinking, backcasting, simulation, and visioning. Some of the anticipatory methods include, the delphi method, causal layered analysis, environmental scanning, morphological analysis, and scenario planning.
The Association of Professional Futurists (APF) is a global community of futurists advancing professional foresight. It was founded in 2002 to validate the competencies of emerging futurists, and to enhance their professional excellence. As analysts, speakers, managers or consultants, APF's credentialed members cultivate strategic foresight for their organizations and clients. APF represents the professional side of the futures movement, while groups such as the World Futures Studies Federation, the World Future Society or The Millennium Project, represent its academic, popular, and activists expressions, respectively.
Technology forecasting attempts to predict the future characteristics of useful technological machines, procedures or techniques. Researchers create technology forecasts based on past experience and current technological developments. Like other forecasts, technology forecasting can be helpful for both public and private organizations to make smart decisions. By analyzing future opportunities and threats, the forecaster can improve decisions in order to achieve maximum benefits. Today, most countries are experiencing huge social and economic changes, which heavily rely on technology development. By analyzing these changes, government and economic institutions could make plans for future developments. However, not all of historical data can be used for technology forecasting, forecasters also need to adopt advanced technology and quantitative modeling from experts’ researches and conclusions.
The Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies is a Danish non-profit, independent think tank founded in 1969 by Thorkil Kristensen, former OECD Secretary-General for the betterment of our society. As one of Scandinavia's leading futures studies think tanks, the Institute's mission is to facilitate knowledge about potential futures, to inspire and equip decision-makers and the public to make the best possible decisions about the future, in the present. Today, the globally oriented institute advises organisations on a strategic level all over the world, including Fortune 500 companies, government ministries and agencies, and non-government institutions. The Institute also hosts various events during the year and collaborate on others, in Denmark and abroad. Lastly the Institute produce several publications, such as reports, magazines and books.
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to futures studies:
Technology scouting is an element of technology management in which
Corporate foresight has been conceptualised as a set of practices, a set of capabilities and an ability of a firm. It enables firms to detect discontinuous change early, interpret its consequences for the firm, and inform future courses of action to ensure the long-term survival and success of the company.
Real-time Delphi (RTD) is an advanced form of the Delphi method. The advanced method “is a consultative process that uses computer technology” to increase efficiency of the Delphi process.
In psychology, prospection is the generation and evaluation of mental representations of possible futures. The term therefore captures a wide array of future-oriented psychological phenomena, including the prediction of future emotion, the imagination of future scenarios, and planning. Prospection is central to various aspects of human cognition and motivation. Daniel Gilbert (psychologist) and Timothy Wilson coined the term in 2007. It has since become a central area of enquiry in the cognitive sciences.
Science fiction prototyping (SFP) refers to the idea of using science fiction to describe and explore the implications of futuristic technologies and the social structures enabled by them.
Design fiction is a design practice aiming at exploring and criticising possible futures by creating speculative, and often provocative, scenarios narrated through designed artifacts. It is a way to facilitate and foster debates, as explained by futurist Scott Smith: "... design fiction as a communication and social object creates interactions and dialogues around futures that were missing before. It helps make it real enough for people that you can have a meaningful conversation with".
Micro-SFP (µSFP) describes an ultra-short science-fiction story written for the specific purpose of capturing inventive ideas for product or service innovations. It is a combination of three concepts, first science-fiction prototyping, second flash fiction and finally, Twitter and texting.
The Institute for the Future (IFTF) is a Palo Alto, California, US–based not-for-profit think tank. It was established, in 1968, as a spin-off from the RAND Corporation to help organizations plan for the long-term future, a subject known as futures studies.
Futures & Foresight Science is an academic journal published by Wiley. The journal publishes articles dedicated to advancing methods that aid anticipating the future. The journal was established in 2019 by Professor George Wright, University of Strathclyde, Professor George Cairns, Queensland University of Technology and Professor Heiko von der Gracht, Steinbeis University Berlin.