Future science uses empirical time series to determine statistically verifiable trends in society and specifies causes and possible consequences for the future in this regard. The academic discipline sees itself as providing guidance and decision-making assistance for all areas of society, business and politics.
Modern futures research involves looking and thinking ahead and is concerned with what happens in the long term – it therefore uses a different analysis period to the one used for trend research based on present day events. Academic thinking about the future must also be seen as a type of “antenna for what is coming”. By constantly observing and assessing social movements and trends, it systematically attempts to answer the question: “Where are things going”? A mix of database information, idea generation and socio-critical analysis helps decision-makers to resolve problems and communicate forecasts and signals to society in general.
Futures research focuses on people’s lifestyles. These rarely change overnight but are subject to long-term processes and transform accordingly over generations. This means that when it comes to attitudes to life, work, partnerships, families, friends, etc., time series are the only way of creating meaningful scenarios for society.
Futures research is important particularly at times when belief in progress and euphoria about the future of society are on the wane – it helps to provide reassurance about the future as this should be pro-actively shaped and not reactively managed.