What is the Future?
What is the Future?
Thinking about the future has become essential. States, corporations, universities, cities, NGOs and individuals believe they cannot miss the future. But what exactly is the future? It remains a mystery – perhaps the greatest mystery of all – since futures are unpredictable, uncertain and often unknowable, the outcome of many known and unknown unknowns. The future can rarely be simply extrapolated from the present.

In this important new book, John Urry seeks to capture many efforts that have been made to anticipate, visualise, elaborate and perform the future. This includes examining methods that have been used to model the future, from those of the RAND corporation to imagined future worlds within philosophy, literature, film, TV, and computer games. He shows that futures are often contested and saturated with different interests, especially in relation to future unborn generations. He shows how analyses of social institutions, practices and lives should be central to examining potential futures and issues as to who owns the future.

The future seems to be characterised by ‘wicked problems’. There are multiple ‘causes’ and ‘solutions’, long-term lock-ins and complex interdependencies, and social groups having radically different frames for understanding what is at stake. Urry explores these issues through case-studies of 3D printing and the future of manufacturing, contested mobilities in the city, and the futures of energy and climate change.
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  • October 2016
  • 200 pages
  • 135 x 216 mm / 5 x 9 in
Available Formats
  • Hardback $64.95
  • 9780745696539
  • Paperback $19.95
  • 9780745696546
  • Open eBook $19.95
  • 9780745696577
Table of Contents
  • PREFACE
  • 1 THE FUTURE HAS ARRIVED
  • 2 TELLING FUTURES IN THE PAST
  • 3 NEW CATASTROPHIC FUTURES
  • 4 TIME AND COMPLEX SYSTEMS
  • 5 INNOVATIONS AND FUTURES
  • 6 ANTICIPATING FUTURES
  • 7 MANUFACTURING FUTURE WORLDS
  • 8 FUTURE CITIES ON THE MOVE
  • 9 CLIMATE FUTURES
  • 10 THE FUTURE OF FUTURES
  • REFERENCES
  • INDEX
About the Author

John Urry (1946-2016) was Distinguished Professor of Sociology at Lancaster University

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Reviews

‘It is time for progressive forces to reclaim the future. Through the crucial lens of social science, this means understanding both the past and how to better work together to craft the futures we want. This brilliant book cuts through a tangle of complexity to show us how.’
Stewart Wallis, New Economics Foundation

‘John Urry has made a major contribution over the past few years to the analysis of climate change and related issues, and he combines here a comprehensive overview of the futures literature with a more detailed focus on some central themes. This learned yet very accessible book is in the best traditions of critical future studies. Anyone who hopes to be around for the next few years or longer should read it.’
William Outhwaite, Newcastle University

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