10 Oct 2008

Essays on Anticipatory Thinking

Mankind over the centuries has repeated made efforts to predict what turns of fortune the future will bring, both individually and socially.  Understanding the future has, to many people, been the keystone for planning activities and actions in hopes of improving the predicted future or, in some cases, to avoid it.  Whether called prophecies, predictions or projections, this deep set desire to know the future is almost universal.  In academic circles, the attempt to use logical and critical thinking to produce such predictions is called anticipatory thinking.

Anticipatory thinking, or “future studies” as it is more commonly called in public, is the art and science of extrapolating possible, probable or preferable future states from existing or predicted trends, seeking to understand what developments may occur and how those developments will change the environment being studied.  It is through anticipatory thinking that small business owners can predict or project their next year’s sales, based either on the trends shown by past accountings or upon predicted events and trends in their particular industry.

Anticipatory thinking is at the root of theoretical and experimental science.  Scientists use anticipatory thinking to determine what will likely happen in a given experiment or based upon their personal theories.  The scientists will then seek to test those anticipations by conducting experiments and matching the results with the product of their anticipatory thinking.

Anticipatory thinking is also at the heart of science fiction works.  Writers (who are often scientists themselves) will seek to present the products of their anticipatory thinking in the form of fictional scenarios.  Some of the earliest known records of anticipatory thinking are the engineering designs of Leonardo da Vinci in the 16th century. Many of the drawings and diagrams of this progressive, anticipatory thinker have been the inspiration of modern devices and technologies we so often take for granted today.

Some historic anticipatory thinking has taken on more sinister tones, such as George Orwell’s novel, “1984” and movies like “The Day After Tomorrow” in which the authors and producers exercised a level of anticipatory thinking in developing the plots of their works, warning us of the possible consequences of trends upon which their works are based. 

  • Many fictional works have attempted to predict the development and impact of technology and social philosophies on individual free will by using anticipatory thinking.  How do novels such as “1984” and “Brave New World” stand when compared with the development of modern society in the United States and United Kingdom?  Were the authors right about their predicted futuristic society?  If so, in what ways and how can modern man draw back from these developments if they are undesirable?
  • Through the use of anticipatory thinking, Thomas Malthus successfully predicted the relationship between food supplies and population size and the effects which overpopulation might trigger in human society.  How does this compare to the works of Paul Ehrlich and Ernest Callenbach in their corresponding books “The Population Bomb” and “Ecotopia?”
  • Many of our modern conveniences were first predicted through anticipatory thinking by science fiction authors building upon trends they perceived in technology.  Two such examples would be Isaac Asimov, who wrote about hand-held computers almost 20 years before the first hand-held calculator was manufactured, and Arthur C. Clarke, who predicted in the 1960s how important geosynchronous orbits would become in military and commercial communication satellites.  How many other devices have be predicted in this manner?  Could these predictions have actually sparked the subsequent invention by inspiring the inventors?  Are there examples of this phenomenon at work today?

Extrapolation from current events and trends takes specialized, anticipatory thinking to predict where events and trends might lead in the future.  To communicate these thoughts takes equally unique abilities in writing.  Our talented writers can easily take your materials and develop them into effective packages to communicate your vision of the future at rates that won’t bankrupt your efforts to fulfill that future.

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