Friday, December 10, 2004

A trip into the past...

While pushing some book-containing crates into the reading room, my eyes were drawn to a tome entitled, "Think Tanks", and I thought to myself...hey...that's US! I lifted the cover and dove in to see the print date and noted that it was 1971. Hmmm...could we be in here? Soon, I discovered that we were...a solid 13 pages of coverage!

The section begins with an excerpt from a scenario of the technological world of 1985, conducted for the state of Connecticut in September 1969. Artificial organs (hearts with power sources that last five years) and anti-contraceptive pill and detection systems to combat surreptitious contraception (new warfare: biological and chemical weapons) are discussed.

Next an overview and excerpt from the original prospectus of IFTF's roots and founding philosophy:
The idea for the Institute...arises from a change in attitude toward the future. The fatalistic view that it is unforeseeable and inevitable is being abandoned. It is being recognized that there are a multitude of possible futures and that appropriate intervention can make a difference in their probabilities. This raises the exploration of the future, and the search for ways to influence its direction, to activities of great social responsibility.

The responsibility is not just an academic one, and to discharge it more than perfunctorily we must cease to be mere spectators in our own on-going history, and participate with determination in molding the future. It will take wisdom, courage and sensitivity to human values to shape a better world. Now is the time to commit ourselves fully to the problems of the future of our society. The proposed Institute would constitute a key step in getting on with this urgent task.

One hundred candidate actions for the state of Connecticut were suggested. Some include:
* Build a bridge to Long Island
* Remove all highway and bridge tolls
* Teach birth control in the public high schools
* Require registration of firearms
* Make drug use a noncriminal act
* Provide free college for all students

Another study outlined is a projection of the future of employee benefits in the nation over the next fifteen years. Some results:
* Employers now dispense half of their payroll in benefits
* The average work week is now down to about thirty-five hours
* Pension plans can be transferred between jobs

Other research topics that we pursued:
* A look at the future environment for education in America
* An inquiry into people's use of time and its consequences both now and in the future
* A long-range future of the cities
* The future of economically retarded nations

Finally, a bio of our President at the time, Olaf Helmer, is given. "Helmer is a tall, imposing man who would rather talk about futurism in general and its promises than about the institute itself."

We seemed to be very left-facing back then, however, it being the late 60s/early 70s, this isn't too surprising. The one interesting thing was that funding for these endeavors was never mentioned. I think it's pretty easy to recommend things that need/should be changed...but somewhere in the equation money always raises its ugly head.

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