We are now at a turning point in history from an industrial age to an information age. Yet we are still confronted with many serious socioeconomic and environmental problems caused by the industrial age. We cannot solve these problems with old-fashioned industrial-age approaches. We need new wholistic solutions based on future-oriented studies. Believing this way and being dissatisfied with an industrial-age paradigm in economics, I have been actively involved in future-oriented studies since 1988 through organizations such as the World Futures Studies Federation and World Future Society. This involvement has given me a good opportunity to consider what future-oriented studies are and why they are also needed in a traditional field such as economics with which I've been familiar for many years. To my disappointment, however, this opportunity only gave me a headache rather than a clear image of future-oriented studies. Nevertheless this headache of several years turned out to be worth suffering for a social scientist like me who was trained in a narrow academic field. I am now in a position to state my own understanding of future-oriented studies and why they are needed. Then, I will make a proposal, on the basis of these arguments, for establishing a higher institution for future-oriented studies.
The future is wide open to everybody. Consequently everybody, even novices, are qualified to be futurists without being trained professionally as a futurist. This means that any field of studies, even science fiction or subjective beliefs, seems to fit into future-oriented studies. The futurist organizations mentioned above are indeed associations of people with diversified backgrounds such as scientists, professionals, politicians, and writers. They are in this sense very different from other established scientific and professional associations. Because of this inter-professional diversity, academic activities of futurists have seldom been regarded as academic by traditional scientists. And to tell the truth, I myself, as a professionally trained social scientist, once felt shy to identify myself as a futurist. What makes future-oriented studies look non-academic, then?
(1) Future-oriented studies are like ancient philosophy which used to covered almost all possible areas of science such as mathematics, astronomy, medicine, etc. As scientific knowledge advanced, many areas of the philosophy became independent fields of science, leaving almost no room for philosophy per se. Future-oriented studies seem to have been following the same path in the last two decades. Since late 60's and early 70's when a need for future-oriented studies was realized, those areas that were able to apply newly-developed scientific methods of statistical inference and estimation, forecasting, and computer simulations adopted future-predicting studies within their own research fields. These future-predicting research areas, however, were not regarded as independent fields of future-oriented studies, but mere extrapolations of their own traditional inquiries into the future. In this way most fields of scientific research have developed their own counterpart of future-oriented studies within their own academic realms, and no room seems to have been left specifically for future-oriented studies. In other words, from the viewpoint of scientists and professionals no additional research area is left which needs to be further covered with a new branch of science called future-oriented studies. Hence, future-oriented studies, if any, are by definition non-academic to them.
(2) Since future-oriented studies are regarded non-academic, no efforts are made to establish their own scientific methodology or futurology. Consequently no scientific paradigm is established on which futurists are able to build their own models and communicate with each other. Moreover, no textbook is available for future-oriented studies with which students can be professionally trained and evaluated. Where are future-oriented studies, then? Obviously they are not included in academic curricula of which textbooks are essential ingredients. The only area in which no paradigm and hence no textbooks are required is in the realm of science fiction, story-telling and scenario writing, in which writers and politicians can attract people with their own subjective visions of the future.
These two points, therefore, have made it irrelevant for future-oriented studies to be part of educational curricula in present-day higher institutions. Those institutions are established on the basis of the scientific methodology of the industrial age; that is, the whole consists of parts and the individual and independent analysis of its parts inevitably leads to the understanding of the whole. Accordingly, they are destined to specialize only in scientific education of the parts under the many different names of departments and faculties.
If future-oriented studies are interpreted as extraneous and non-academic, there is obviously no room to establish them as a new or alternative science. But are they? Let me consider the first point first. Modern science has gradually revealed that the whole is an inseparable and organic entity and mere analysis of its individual parts is not enough to understand the whole. In other words, almost all socioeconomic and environmental phenomena are gradually coming to be understood as mutually interrelated at a deep root level as if Mahatma Buddha revealed the fundamental cause of all of our afflictions. This new view of looking at the whole is, for instance, most typically presented in the Gaia theory , chaos theory , and complexity . This new view makes the traditional division of scientific research areas entirely powerless to cope with the socioeconomic and environmental problems we now face separately and independently, because a solution obtained from one separate type of research might cause another new problem somewhere else when applied independently. Thus, what has been missing in industrial-age scientific research and hence in the academic curricula of present-day higher institutions, is a study of interrelated wholeness and interdependence. This study is not merely interdisciplinary studies as used to be believed among futurists, but a totally new synthesis study of individual analyses at different levels of the whole, depending on the objectives of our scientific inquiry. My work is a small, but first step toward this new synthesis at the level of economic life .
Let me now turn to the second point. The future is uncertain. Yet we have to make decisions today against this uncertain future on the basis of our future visions or beliefs . In this sense, the future only lies in our present decisions on the future and hence in our mind. But can we envisage what kind of future our mind wants to create without knowing our mind itself or ourselves? Envisioning the future implies self-awareness. In other words, self-awareness is a prerequisite for better decisions on the future. Through an effort to attain self-awareness is eventually revealed a relation between ourselves and our environment; that is, an interrelated wholeness, of which we are a part.
Self-awareness is not knowledge but wisdom. Wisdom cannot be searched for through knowledge, partly because it is of a personally-acquired nature and thus hard to accumulate like knowledge and passed interpersonally. This is why it is not taught at school based on scientific knowledge. Thus, Zen meditation has been practiced in the East independently of industrial-age school systems, because wisdom is believed to be searched for only through the practice to attain self-awareness. It is now time to change this effete attitude toward the school system. The practice to attain wisdom can be a scientific learning process from a new wholistic view of science , though its scientific paradigm in a traditional sense and textbooks based on it are not available yet. In short, we absolutely need wisdom for decision-making or future-oriented studies.
To conclude, a study of interrelated wholeness and the search for wisdom -- these are what have been entirely neglected in the industrial-age methodology of science and hence within the present-day higher institutions based on it. On the contrary these two things are the most essential study fields for creating a better future in the 21st century. Considering the nature of these fields, it would be relevant to regard them as essential constituents of future-oriented studies. Future-oriented studies can now be defined in principle as a new wholistic science which consists of the following two major study fields:
Higher institutions in the industrial age have failed to provide future-oriented studies. This is why we urgently need to establish a new higher institution which focuses on the future-oriented studies defined above. What kind of specific areas should be covered, then, under future-oriented studies? Derived from the above definition, the following five major study fields are constituted as an inseparable whole:
Now that five inseparable areas of future-oriented studies are specified in this way, it is strongly recommended that a working team of professionals from these areas be formed to construct a new synthesis paradigm which covers these five areas wholistically, with an objective to write a textbook of future-oriented studies on the basis of the synthesis paradigm .
For an effective study of these five areas wholistically, it is most desirable that students of future-oriented studies have a comprehensive and professional background in one of these five areas. Hence, it is advised that a higher institution for future-oriented studies aims at a graduate level.
Let me further consider why we need such a higher institution for a sustainable future. An industrial-age system of representative democracy has three pitfalls: (1) it is not a participatory democracy by all members of society, (2) no future generations such as children (yet to be born) are allowed to represent themselves, (3) no other living beings such as animals and plants are allowed to represent themselves. It is not too much to say that many socioeconomic and environmental problems we now face have been caused by these pitfalls underlying industrial-age democracy.
To make a democracy a better system for wiser decisions, future generations and all living beings have to be equally represented. A new democratic system in the 21st century will have to allow these new voters to represent themselves by introducing, say, a quota system in which one third of votes are reserved for them. Since it is technically impossible for them to vote by themselves, they have to be represented by someone else. Who can, then, vote on behalf of them? Those who complete the future-oriented studies will be qualified to represent them and cast the reserved votes for them in all decision-making processes that affect them, because the future-oriented studies specifically aim at making wiser decisions for a sustainable future. In this way a higher institution for future-oriented studies will be prepared to play an important role to meet a new participatory democracy standard in the 21st century. This is another reason why the institution is urgently needed for the next century.
Awaji Island, located in Osaka Bay, is part of the Inland Sea National Park in Japan. The island seems to be a future-oriented place for the following five reasons. First, its beautiful environment of green countryside has been still preserved well in spite of its close location to big cities like Kobe and Osaka. Secondly, it is the first island in Japan created by the Gods according to an old legend so that traditional village life and ancient culture have been preserved well on the island. Thirdly, it has better access to an international airport than Tokyo, only 30 minutes from the island by boat, thanks to the opening of the Kansai International Airport in Osaka Bay in September 1994. Fourthly, the island will become not only a tourist spot but a place to rethink the relation between environment and technology in the future when the longest bridge in the world connecting the island and the main island of Japan is completed in 1998. The bridge will also give islanders direct access to large cities such as Kobe, Osaka and Kyoto. Finally, the island will become a symbolic place of network and communications for the 21st century, as New York used to be a symbolic place of liberty for the 20th century thanks to the Statue of Liberty donated by the French government about a century age, when its second monument symbolizing Communications will be donated in 1998 atop a hill on the Awaji side overlooking the longest suspension bridge in the world.
Considering these features, Awaji Island indeed seems to be an island of the future, and in this sense a good place for newly establishing a higher institution for future-oriented studies. Fortunately, the island people, as well as those in WFSF, WFS and the Future-Oriented Project of UNESCO, are very cooperative in realizing this idea. The institution will serve as a networking campus to create an ecologically-sustainable green world for the 21st century as envisioned above. Therefore, it will be appropriate to call such a new institution The Network University of the Green World.
To disseminate worldwide this idea of establishing the Network University at the beginning of the next century, Goshiki-cho, one of the 10 small towns in the island with a population of just 10,500, will be sponsoring the Future-Oriented Complexity and Adaptation Studies (FOCAS) Seminar  every summer, starting in 1993. Go-shiki literally means five-colors -- a good coincidence indeed for the five colorful areas of future-oriented studies defined above. The town, though small in size, is known throughout Japan as the town of the Declaration of Health using a system of medical IC cards, the first to be introduced in Japan, in which the towns people are provided IC cards that store their medical records so that the medical data can be efficiently utilized at the time of treatments. To promote this medical health-care system further, the town has installed, in April 1994, a town-wide optical fiber medical network system aiming to allow the towns people to obtain medical advice from doctors interactively at home through video screens. Fortunately, the same network system can also be used for TV conferences. In other words, teachers and students staying with their homestay families in the town can communicate with each other or hold a meeting any time at home. In this way, the town itself will be capable of becoming a network campus without any further investment in communications. Considering these possibilities, the town seems to be a very good place to establish a network campus. The campus need not be an ugly complex of concrete buildings as in the industrial age. Instead, a future campus would consist of small and ecologically sustainable solar houses, networked together in a lovely pastoral area. The town is indeed fully capable of this possibility. I am personally very grateful for this opportunity offered by the town. It is now we the futurists who will turn this opportunity into The Network University of the Green World at the beginning of the 21st century.