Former Director
Hawaii Research Center for Futures Studies

Keynote | Four Generic Images of the Future of the Manoa School

Jim Dator is Professor Emeritus and former Director of the Hawaii Research Center for Futures Studies, Department of Political Science. He served as Secretary General and then President of the World Futures Studies Federation for a decade, produced numerous publications on futures studies and emergent issues, and has consulted with governmental, educational, religious, public-interest, military, and business organisations in over 40 countries. Jim Dator is a member of the Association of Professional Futurists.

Many people consider “the future” to be a time and place lying somewhere “ahead” of us towards which we are tending.  Some people even seem to assume that “the future” somehow pre-exists, and that we are able, or should be able, to “predict” what it will be like.  Our long experience in the futures field has convinced us that it is not possible to predict the future. Rather, it is possible, and necessary, to “forecast” and “experience” logical, theory-based, images of “alternative futures”, and to use our analysis of them to envision, invent, and move towards the creation of  “preferred futures”, continually re-examining our preferences on the basis of experiences with new and old images of alternative futures.

Many years ago, we concluded that all of the millions, indeed billions, of images of the futures that are in people’s minds and actions are specific versions of four generic images of the futures. We eventually labeled them Grow, Collapse/New Beginnings, Discipline and Transform.

It is very important to understand that the generic four alternative images of the futures of the Manoa School are not “made up”. Rather, each of them is built on a very firm empirical base. That is to say, there are many groups and individuals around the world who hold some version of one of them as an accurate image of The Future—while also usually proclaiming that the other three are wrong. I believe there are strong arguments supporting each of the four generic images, and that it is not possible for me, as a futurist, to say that any one is wrong or right. Rather, it is my duty to present specific versions of each of the four to you as appealingly and accurately as possible so that you may decide how best to envision and create your preferred futures in response to all four of the alternative futures images.

Download Jim Dator’s bibliography on the four generic images of the futures of the Maona School