Boston University Creates Center for the Study of the Longer-range Future Million Center to Study Choices for the Future
Contact: Kevin Carleton, 617/353-2240 | email@example.com
(Boston, Mass.) — Boston University today announced the establishment of the Frederick S. Pardee Center for the study of the Longer-Range Future, funded by a gift of $5 million from Frederick S. Pardee, an alumnus and successful real estate entrepreneur who began his career as an expert in policy research and economic/technology forecasting.
The Center will bring together representatives from a broad spectrum of disciplines to take an informed, rigorous, and thoughtful look at the forces that will shape our global society in the period ranging from 35 to 200 years into the future, and to predict what specific impact they will have on people’s lives. With such a time frame, the new Center will look well beyond the periods traditionally studied by universities and private research organizations.
“Just in my lifetime, new developments have occurred at breathtaking speeds, and they pose crucial questions for the future,” said Pardee. “Are there physical limits to the ability of humans to absorb information, or to the numbers of people who can interact and function effectively? Is it reasonable to assume continued extrapolation of the rates of technological change that have occurred in the last 50 years? What social, economic, and political forces will mold our society? Most importantly, what are the effects of these changes likely to be on future lifestyles and human values?”
Noted historian David Fromkin, professor of International Relations, History, and Law at Boston University, will be the first Pardee Professor and director of the Center. Fromkin is author of a number of critically acclaimed books, including The Way of the World: From the Dawn of Civilizations to the Eve of the 21st Century, which maps out the key paths by which humanity has arrived at its current state, and speculates on the prospects for society that lie ahead.
Activities of the Center will include study groups, interviews, simulations, conferences, strategic gaming, and other means for exploring possible scenarios for the future. The Center will also identify and establish relationships with universities and other institutions from around the world that are studying the future, and catalogue relevant archives and publications.
The funds provided will endow not only the Pardee Professorship, but also an endowed visiting professorship to be held by a succession of eminent scholars from diverse fields who will deliver a series of lectures to be published by the Center in monograph form.
At the outset, the lectures by the visiting professors will concentrate on the far end of the chosen 35-200 year range, while the other Center programs will initially focus on policy options for the next 10 to 20 years, which can profoundly affect scenarios for 2035 AD.
“While keeping our eyes on the more speculative issues, we will look at the serious, practical questions of what we should do about the real issues such as nutrition and education, for example, that will affect the children born today who will be in the age group most influential in the affairs of the world in 2035,” explained Fromkin. “Later, as resources and experience grow, the agenda will shift forward to the more distant future.”
A native of Massachusetts, Frederick Pardee received both a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree from the Boston University School of Management in 1954. He worked for 13 years at the RAND Corporation as a systems analyst, studying long term economic forecasts. He then spent several years working as an independent consultant, primarily for the government. In 1974, he turned his professional attention to managing his real estate investments while actively maintaining his interest in analyzing the future as a hobby.
“Discerning the forces and factors that will affect society most profoundly in the future is difficult and necessarily speculative,” said Jon Westling, president of Boston University. “Yet the preservation of society’s best ideas and institutions, and the promotion of its most important values and abilities, are essential to the long-term flourishing, even survival, of the human race. It is therefore important that the most capable thinkers and institutions identify and study seriously the questions and policy alternatives that will be relevant to the longer-range future.”
One of the world’s premier research universities, Boston University is committed to excellence in teaching as well as to direct involvement in the artistic, economic, social, intellectual, and educational life of the community and of society worldwide. It the fourth-largest independent institution of higher learning in the United States, with an enrollment of nearly 30,000 students and more than 3,000 faculty in its 15 schools and colleges.