How to Think Like a Futurist

Recently I was asked to develop a course that anyone could take on how to think like a futurist. What emerged was a 16-week elective, A&S 392: Contemporary Futurist Thought: From H.G. Wells to Ray Kurzweil. 

A&S 392

A&S 392: Think Like a Futurist

Focusing a college course on the future may appear novel, but it reflects the fact that humans don’t just look backwards with hindsight but must look forward with foresight.

“Contemporary Futurist Thought” helps students grapple with what experts think may happen in the future, the methods they use to look forward, and how to improve one’s ability to frame, anticipate and shape the future.

A&S 392 is offered online in 8-modules, each lasting two weeks. They are:

  1. Explorers of the Future: Describe how the ancient practice of prediction became a modern science of futurism.
  2. The Future of Science & Technology: Consider how techno-economic drivers have created discontinuous change in our world, moving us through transitions into new eras.
  3. The Future of Design, Energy & Travel: Discuss how technology will enable us to design and create a post-terrestrial age by 2100.
  4. Mythology of the Future: Consider how stories of the future summon us to better choices today.
  5. Pathways to the Future: Contrast the premises of conventional, counter and creative paths to navigate this century’s transition to sustainability.
  6. Concepts of the Future: Extend one’s divergent thinking about the future in a conscious manner, balanced by convergent thinking.
  7. Theories of the Future: Blend various theories and concepts into a personal ‘futures literacy’ map.
  8. Shape the Future: Call others to frame, anticipate and create the future in their world.

The course includes archived Module mini-lectures, weekly dialogue, a live tutorial meeting every 2-weeks, plus streaming media by experts such as Alvin Toffler, Michio Kaku, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Slaughter, and Thomas Lombardo. The course concludes with students producing their own YouTube that invites their coworkers or peers to frame, anticipate and create the future in their sector.

A&S 392 has five Course Learning Outcomes.

  1. Recall how innovations in science and technology will shape people’s lives by the year 2100.
  2. Write about social, political and economic cycles, trends and issues in a 21st century context.
  3. Identify how theories of the future under gird their academic and professional fields.
  4. Share how a future device, invention or therapy might impact their field in the 21st century.
  5. Draw upon their reflective self-awareness to shape their future.

If you would like to teach a course on futures literacy to your community college, consider joining me at the Foresight Educator’s Bootcamp, where I will share how you can tap into what you already you know about the future, change, complexity and vision to empower others in training programs or short-courses.

Dr. Jay Gary is president of, a foresight consulting group. Over the past twenty years he has helped non-profits, foundations, civic leaders, and strategic alliances to create more promise filled futures. He also teaches strategic foresight, innovation and leadership at the graduate level and through professional development courses.

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