This article is part of my Master’s Thesis - Future Imaginaries.

What determines the framework of imaginable futures in society? Anyone who has ever conducted a scenario process with different groups of participants - e.g., on topics such as digitization or climate change - often finds that the basic ideas about futures on these topics are similar, which is particularly evident in the selection of critical factors or megatrends. This indicates that there are collective expectations of the future on specific topics beyond the scope of single individuals and groups (such as teams or organizations) to the societal and global levels.

The distinctive trait is that these expectations of the future are not reflected. Suppose you ask participants in a scenario process why they have selected specific megatrends. In that case, they usually cannot give a clear answer that goes beyond a justification of “because everyone says so.” It is a constituent characteristic of these future expectations that they are taken for granted and are so apparent that they are no longer questioned.

This lack of reflection is surprising and directly impacts the outcome, as the selection of megatrends and key factors plays an elementary role in a scenario process and significantly influences the diversity of the resulting scenarios.

These unconscious expectations of the future, which are taken for granted, continue to shape society far beyond the development of images of the future in futures studies. They determine where investments and research are made, who is elected, and who is listened to. They shape decisions and determine behavior.

From futures studies to philosophy and sociology to anthropology, numerous disciplines are concerned with society’s understanding of the future on a wide variety of levels. Concepts such as social imaginaries exist to describe social expectations. However, these concepts are still hardly used to make unconscious expectations of the future visible and criticizable and to create the possibility of developing alternative images of the future that go beyond previous expectations.

Next Chapter: 1.1 Goals

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