The recent work of a few thinkers in the United States and abroad shows with growing clarity that the idea of planning is beginning to crystallize, to have coherence and cohesiveness. This is an exciting as well as important development, especially if one remembers that the writers in question often approach the subject from quite radically differing angles of vision, from different backgrounds and from divergent intellectual commitments or personal biases. If, despite this, a convergence has become noticeable, it should be possible to think that beyond residual idiosyncracies of language and style, a planning methodology is emerging which appears capable of weaving manifold strands together into a common body of knowledge and application.
For the moment, such a methodology remains open-ended. It has not yet been formalized into doctrine, and it is possible, and perhaps to be hoped, that it will remain this way. Nevertheless, its overall configuration, its main concepts and phases are now sufficiently general, so that one can describe and discuss them without reference to specific cases. My aim in these pages is to do precisely that.
Futurology often looks like a new undertaking, the object of which would be to give people "the fantastic and marvellous" that every one needs: make one dream of tomorrow. But if the future is an alibi, it must also be a tool for mobilization. Prospective gives then to itself a less emphatic purpose: it is a new way of reading past and present (that is to say to understand history) as to define the prospects which make the future. The future is not determined in a mecanic way. It is the resultant and the expression of different projects (projects of economical groups and classes), which meet, clash inside a complex economic and social formation.
In another way, to read history goes with the idea the future is to be made, which only results of classes, struggle, social and international power-relations.
The method must unite on one side a way of production trends analysis (abstract time), and a social formation evolution (concrete time). It is a way of thinking which obviously can use traditional technics.
The purpose of this paper is to show that an essential symmetry exists between the "history of the future" (prospective) and the history of the past (retrospective) and that only by reference to both can we fully understand the present. The exploratory look into both the future and the past implies a model of time. This model is presented in a diagram entitled the "chronosphere" and involves a vision of time punctuated by the freedom to make decisions. In the very-short-run all factors are fixed. In the very long-run all factors are variable. In between there are five discernible time periods. The study of time itself implies model-building and scenario-writing. Both are analysed and elements of a methodology for future studies are put in place. The article ends with an exhortation to further "marry" the scenario-technique (essentially a creative process) with the modelling-technique (which is primarily a scientific procedure).
Since the publication three years ago of the 'global' models of World Dynamics and The Limits of Growth, there has been revived interest in the possibilities of using large scale computer models for the forecasting of long term futures. Although these particular models received considerable criticism, on technical and ideological grounds, the idea that such models may ultimately be useful for seeking out desirable futures and anticipating the dangers in achieving them remains attractive and a number of new global modelling projects are now underway at various institutions around the world.
In general these large models have met with mixed success and, at a time when the use of computer models seems likely to become a more widespread feature of our society, it is instructive to examine the reasons why. In particular, it is important to examine the limitations of models proposed for use in the public policy domain.
The theory of systems is presented as an operational theory that can be used to modelize the structure of technical or social systems. Simulation and optimalization techniques can be used to operate this model on a computer for analyzing different scenarios. A recent study of the economy of energy and of the particular role of hydrogen is presented as an example of such a use of the theory of systems in the studies on prospective.
Increasingly scenarios are used as an important component of long-term planning. But not all scenarios are equally valid and equally useful for the decision-maker. Defining a scenario as a "synthetic process which stimulates step by step and in a plausible fashion a series of events which eventually lead a system to a new state", this study examines two kinds of scenarios: exploratory, where the inquiry proceeds from the present situation to a future one, and normative, where the search proceeds from a desirable future to the present. For each type of scenarios three sets of theoretical problems are examined: 1) the role of values, which must be explicitely recognized and used as such; 2) the concept of causality, which in a scenario has to be dealt with differently than in an "ordinary" scientific research, 3) the problem of time and the need to break the linear conception of the link existing between events. Finally, the study examines a number of practical tools and criterias (coherence, interaction, …) with which to build and to judge scenarios.
For the last fifteen years, in France, one has seen a clear tendancy toward prospective studies that are meant for planners. Those studies may be classified into three categories: sectorial, "transversal" and general. Because of the fact that these types of works are of different nature it seems interesting to consider them separately for discussion purpose.
One important tool for forecasting in the field of applied economics has been largely overlooked—the identification and analysis of patterns of industrial behavior. The following paper shows how the method of detecting behavior patterns, and the factors which control them, can be utilized for analyzing the past economic performance of an industry and for predicting its likely performance in the future.
This analysis has also revealed that when controlled by the same factors, different industries follow the same behavior pattern. This being so, it becomes possible to group industries together and reclassify them on the basis of their common major business characteristics. Of these, one of the most important is their mode of competition. This reclassification also enables us to know when we can transfer experience between industries (within the same group) and when we cannot do this (between industries in different groups).
At the present time, significant changes are occurring in the economic, organizational and technical climates. New economic goals appear necessary for Canada and these are suggested. These changes are altering the importance of the factors controlling industrial behavior. The nature of these changes is considered and applied to the case of the chemical industry in the next decade. The analysis suggests what new factors will control this industry, and the direction and nature of the likely changes in it. Given this, an estimate of the economic changes can be made.
Analysis of behavior patterns is, therefore, a powerful and essential tool for estimating the future behavior of industries, and of groups of industries, in the economy.
The growth of consumer and environmentalist movements in recent years has shown that technological innovation is not always beneficial. Growing public pressure for better assessments of the consequences of technological projects has lead to the development of the concept of "Technology Assessment" which has been defined as "taking a purposeful look at the consequences of technological change".
The concept of "Technology Assessment" originated in the U.S.A. in the early 1960's. In 1972 the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) was formed as an aid to Congress. However since the Canadian political system differs significantly from that in the U.S.A. a different mechanism for Technology Assessment is needed in Canada. The present paper describes such a mechanism.
Long term forecasting, as popularized by some recent models of the world, appears to be a-scientific from the standpoint of the social scientists. The basis for this radical judgment is threefold: First, structural relations incorporated into these models of the world seldom go further than stating rigid relations between some physical variables and world output. Second, the factual basis on which these relations are built is often not validated by past trends. Finally, the framework within which these models are cast rules out all possibly for the social sciences to contribute to our understanding of the future. Political and economic adaptation mechanisms are excluded. Futurology as developed by some models is based on poor measurement and poor theory.