The Taxonomy of Futurists

Instructor explaining the operation of a parachute to student pilots, Meacham field, Fort Worth, Tex. (LOC)

Instructor explaining the operation of a parachute to student pilots, Meacham field, Fort Worth, Tex. (LOC)

Who are the future futurists and how were the past futurists defined?

From a paper written by Darlene E. Weingand entitled: Futures Research Methodologies:Linking Today’s Decisions With Tomorrow’s Possibilities

Here she defines 3groups of futurists in to Mainstream, Marginal and Non-Futurist

The Mainstream Futurist typically tends to be a generalist and is identified as a futures researcher or professional futurist, attends futures conferences, and/or contributes to futures journals. Six types can be listed:

The Synoptic Generalist…An Ideal, encompassing the ability to have a sense of the key elements of society, a grasp of trends and discontinuities, a willingness to forecast, a sense of pl ausible alternatives, comfort in dealing with complexity, a sense of values held by self and others, imagination, a theory of social change, direct or indirect optimism, and a sense of history.

The General Forecaster…One who forecasts [not predicts] changes in operating conditions; broad in space and long in time.

The Normative Generalist…One who makes no attempt to forecast the probably future, but rather focuses on “alternative futures”.

The Pop Futurist…the “popularizer” who writes for a broad audience, introduces people to futures thinking, and attracts people to utilizing futures research or becoming futures research ers.

The Multi-Identify Futurist…similar to the Pop Futurist; is well-known and influential, but is also known by other labels and the futurist role may be secondary.

The Specialized Futurist…a specialist in a single problem area, perhaps borrowing a few general ideas.

The Marginal Futurist has four sub-sets:

The Futurized Specialist…only secondarily a futurist; someone who is interested in futures- relevant questions, attends futures conferences and contributes to the literature, but identifies primarily with another field such as medicine, law, physics, etc.

The Closet Futurist…one who seriously thinks and writes about the future, but is in no way associated with futures research or the “futures movement”.

The Future Futurist… one who will become a futurist at a later time; possibly students.

The Forgotten Futurist…a writer or thinker from the past who dealt with futures themes but was not regarded as a futurist.

Two categories of Non-Futurist Futurists can be listed:

The Pseudo-Futurist…one who employs the language of the future, but offers no useful insight as to what might happen or what desirable futures to pursue.

The Straw-Man Futurist…a non-entity that is never defined; a conceptual and rhetorical target.


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