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Interview with Roberto Paura, Director of the Italian Institute on Future Studies

This month we introduce you to a fantastic person: his name is Roberto Paura and he is the director of the Italian Institute of Future Studies. Here is the complete interview, also reported in the May De-LAB newsletter. Happy reading! 

http://costacontemporanea.es/?torakalniy=contactos-chicas-vecindario&318=3e What are future studies? 

Studies on futures, or on futuristic scenarios, are all those processes that investigate conjectural scenarios that cannot be predicted. In these studies, major trends and unexpected shocks, the “wild cards”, are analysed. Their aim is to build long-term strategic scenarios. 

unpreparedly What are the concrete applications of futures studies? 

So-called Corporate Foresights, where you develop a scenario, or a plurality of scenarios, and with these alternatives you are able to develop a long-term strategy for a strategic transformation. Then there are social applications for the use of civil society, related to the field of social foresight inaugurated by the Club of Rome in the 1960s. 

a la rencontre du soleil rebuffat How are such studies affected by unpredictable exogenous shocks, the so-called ‘Black Swans’? 

For those of us who study these aspects, the real “black swan” practically does not exist… when it comes to human phenomena, everything is almost always predictable. What cannot be predicted are the effects. For example, on Covid19, all the major pandemic experts knew that a pandemic would occur in these years. There are methods such as the ‘Wheel of Futures’ where people work to understand the impacts of black swans, so-called ‘anticipatory thinking’. 

Italy is a country with zero population growth. Can the future be made by old people? 

The Italian demographic situation is the demonstration of a “presentism” that sees the future as the natural continuation of the present. In our study, we are monitoring the so-called intergenerational conflict (or lack thereof) because it is fundamental for transgenerational policies, e.g. those that include “Youth Quotas” in Boards. However, influencing a population whose average age is so advanced with thoughts of the future takes a lot of effort and is often done by concretising their children’s difficulties in the world of work. Recently we have been helped by the article in the Constitution that talks about the rights of future generations. 

Can you recommend a book and a film to help us understand the future? 

As a film I recommend Minority Report, by Spielberg, which focuses on the dictatorship of data. As books I recommend “Superintelligence” about the risks of a society enslaved to Artificial Intelligence and “Player One”, by Ernest Cline, about the Metaverse.

To quote a famous book, the future “is a cultural fact”. How does the intuition of the future change in different cultures? 

The future understood as the capacity to aspire has always referred to different aspirations. In the West, the future coincides with the concept of progress, recently mainly technological progress. In the past – for example during the Enlightenment – progress was also social, as well as technological. There are therefore methods of assessing cultural influences, called Future Lab or Casual Layered Analysis, in which cultural assumptions that determine the vision of the future are assessed. So what you get is a tendency towards relativisation, or a kind of ‘Esperanto’ of the future? Let’s say you create models that generate a convergence towards a common scenario… and of course convergence can be intrinsically positive or negative, like all synthesis processes. 

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