"In this way the first men were made, and soon they filled the far reaches of the earth. But for a long time they did not know what to do with their noble limbs or the divine spirit which had been breathed into them. They saw, yet they did not see; they heard, yet they did not hear. . . . Then Prometheus [Forethought] came to their aid."
Gustav Schawab, Die Sagen des Klassischen Altertums, translated by Marx and Morwitz; Pantheon Books
The Foresight Project was formed to develop and implement educational initiatives that connect students in a meaningful way with the critical issues of their own future world. Our initial program, Imagining Tomorrow: Alternate Energy Futures, www.itomorrow.nesea.org, was piloted in the spring of 2006 in partnership with the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association www.nesea.org. Imagining Tomorrow: Alternate Energy Futures focuses on the science, technology, political and economic implications of our need to address increasing levels of CO2 in our atmosphere, global warming, and the implementation of solutions at technology, policy, and corporate levels.
Inquiry-based programs allow teachers and students to learn together, inspiring the students to become curious and follow the path of their curiosity, creating life-long learners. Web-based programs create a short-cut through the traditional path of knowledge to textbook to teacher-training to classroom. Students and teachers can think critically about the important issues of the day, on a real-time basis, with materials changing in parallel with our changing world.
Why The Foresight Project?
Foresight studies are not about predicting the future. We now realize that the future is a "garden of forking paths" influenced by variables bothunder our control and beyond our control. Foresight techniques instead explore the potential outcome of a particular set of choices, influenced by a particular set of variables, and allow us to explore the implications of the choices that we make.
Government programs of scenario-based foresight studies are common, using a range of tools, from creative writing to "What If" essays, to explore potential futures for the purpose of developing real-world policies and practices. For students, this same practice can inspire understanding of a critical issue in depth, as well as develop the practice of critical thinking that must become commonplace in the institutional and commercial lives of our future employees and citizens.
Science fiction has long been used as a way of understanding new information and its potential consequences. In The Road to Science Fiction, James Gunn writes: "Science fiction is the branch of literature that deals with the effects of change on people in the real world as it can be projected. . . and it usually involves matters whose importance is greater than the individual or the community; often civilization itself is in danger."
Science fiction is a way of making real and tangible the vague and even invisible threats to our future. That idea led to the first program, which is now expanding to a national program.