Predicting the future is hazardous business. Those who try to do it—from weather forecasters to technologists—have historically had a dismal track record. Humanists typically do not engage in future prediction, but they do think about what might be in store for humans and the planet we inhabit. They might interpret (or compose) utopian or dystopian fiction, or analyze historical cycles and trends, or consider the value of existing or novel ethical or religious systems, or trace the waxing and waning of linguistic structures and languages.
Humanists might also explore and analyze multiple narratives about the future, recognizing how human diversity and the variety of cultural pathways we inhabit affect and circumscribe future visions. In addition, humanists interact with scientific and social scientific data about the future—of social systems, Earth’s environment and climate and political movements—by analyzing how such knowledge is constructed and how it relates to imaginative or experiential evidence gleaned from history, literature, philosophy, popular culture and the arts.
Work on the study of futures takes place in humanities units and centers in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the College of Letters and Sciences and humanities-related units in Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences.