The Real-Life Applications of Futuristics

Rumi Forum Afternoon Talk hosted Dr. R.M. Ikram Azam, Co-Founder and Honorary Co-Chairperson of the Pakistan Futuristics Foundation and Institute, Islamabad as the resource person on February 28, 2013.

Dr. Raja Muhammad Ikram Azam (‘ndc) C.D., Ph.D., D.Litt. is a freelance writer, author of over 125 books in English, ranging from fiction and verse to research work in Futuristics, Islam, Pakistan, Creativity, Literary Studies, Research Methodology, Education, Life, Education and Life Skills, Moral Values Education and Integrated Family Studies, Interfaith Interaction, Social Change, Geosociology, Geopolitics, Geostrategy, International Political Economy and Peace Studies. A senior retired career civil servant of the Government of Pakistan, Dr. Azam had served the Federal Ministry of Education as a Deputy Educational Advisor, and later as the MD, National Book Foundation, and DG, National Book Council of Pakistan. He was also a Member of the BoG, National Institute of Pakistan Studies, Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad (1980-95).

Rumi Forum’s Afternoon Talk on “The Real-Life Applications of Futuristics” attracted an audience of think-tank staff, university students from international relations and sociology departments, and media-persons especially interested in the potentials of futuristics as well as the outshoot disciplines of this distinctive social science.

Speaking on the theme, Dr. Azam defined futuristics as “a frontier human and social science,” adding that futuristics is a modern science, which emerged in the last 70-80 years. Especially after the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, peace studies and futuristics came into the public scene, he asserted.

Highlighting futuristics as the study of the future as well as planning and working for the future, Dr. Ikram Azam mentioned that futuristics directly deals with the history in making while having an analytical perspective on the past. “Futuristics can influence history making by current thinking and planning and while studying the future, the futurist studies the trends and issues, focuses on the future and speculates about the future,” he added.

Stating that speculation is a raw expression while taking about the potentials of futuristics, Dr. Azam hinted that ‘forecasting’ would be an apt term than many others. Reminding that futuristics is a human and social science, he made a number of classifications under the theme as: futurism (theory), futuristics (application), futuring (implementation), strategic futurization (advanced implementation).

Hinting at George Santayana’s quote about the significance of learning from past mistakes so as to avoid the repetition of mistakes, Dr. Azam stated that future history may be termed as futuristics and divided future into four main segments i.e. immediate, short-term, long-term, and distant. Placing the human element in the centre of planning the future, Dr. Azam referred to the Persian expressions, “fardabini” and “fardashinasi” about knowing oneself and stated that futuring “farda” i.e. planning the future as related to individuals in particular is a vital part of futuristics studies.

Saying that we are constantly pushed into the future, Dr. Azam stated, “Future is integral to our lives as well as to the lives and societies. This is the philosophy of futuristics. There are various idealizations of future; in the past, we had various utopias, after the World War II, science fiction was born as a genre and anti-utopia was forwarded. Currently, as we near the end of times, doom and gloom scenarios are reflected through dystopias in literature and expressive arts.

Dr. Azam reminded that we need to take today’s decisions with tomorrow’s realities, thus we are to plan well. Stating that Islam is futuristic – talks not only here but also hereafter – Dr. Azam also expressed a number of examples from other world faiths about future-planning. “Planning routines such as time-keeping and budget-allocation display our alternative future-based projections and forecasting the future is an essential part of our current work systems,” he added.

Touching upon the sociology of futuristics, Dr. Azam stated that futuristics dwells on social changes and measures what the trends and issues are. Comparing indigenization (being ourselves) against secularism, he mentioned that balancing the mundane and the sacred or otherworldly is also open for study under futuristics.

Talking about the political economy of futuristics, Dr. Azam regretted about the current rule of ad-hocism by listing the triple-P plagues of the society as personalism, partisanism, and provincialism, and stated that Pakistanism may be the only solution for all these. He added, “Real-life application starts with self-futuring yourself, your students, colleagues, school, and family and so on. Self-realization is becoming one’s real self. There are multiple – concentric or separate – futures i.e. personal futures, family futures, and social futures. It is all about building scenarios about the future happenings.”

“Political economy dimension of futuristics invites us to ponder what kind of economy suits us in various spheres. The social change outlook of futuristics makes us notice that an ongoing change is imposed upon us, if we do not impose it on ourselves by ourselves. The drama serials which make believe and people imitate what they see over there as well as the anchorpersons and the depictions on the television screens shape a certain change paradigm among ourselves,” Dr. Azam stated and added, “there are cultural codes that we are identified with, such as language codes, dress codes, and behavior codes. In addition, Islamic conduct codes such as hudood (limits), hijab (modesty), adab (respect for one another and human rights) and so on are essentially embedded in our social outlook in Pakistan.”

Speaking on the planning for the future, Dr. Azam asserted that we needed natural and human resources, which are important for planning economy. “Future wars may erupt because of water, in addition, nuclear and biological weapons are the looming threat for all world countries. As a discipline of futuristics, public security and national defense points come in the view,” he stated.

Musing on the potentials of Pakistan and with what futuristics may help, Dr. Azam stated that peaceful coexistence is compulsory for peace and harmony in the country. Speaking on along which way Pakistan as a country and nation may move, he reiterated that (1) social change, (2) human resource development (the best way is education and futuristics should be the input), (3) man-made resources that would initiate inventions and a knowledge economy, and (4) time – as the cheapest and the most important resource among these, time denotes life and everything should be planned within a specific span of time. Time should not be wasted and planning should exceed a human’s lifetime for the benefit of the future generations.

Smilingly musing about how the young as well as the old should regard futuristics, Dr. Azam asked a rhetorical question, “How do we plan for our sunset years?” He went on to touch upon a number of associations regarding the brain-drain and redefining secularism in the current scenario of the country. Stating that travel used to be a form of education in the past, Dr. Azam mentioned that degree-based educational trips and sojourns were uni-dimensional and it was necessary to try to build a future for oneself too.

About redefining secularism in the light of futuristics, Dr. Azam stated that moral values should be brought to the fore and science and technology should be made subordinate to faith. “Secularism is one of the main pillars of the Western Civilization,” he mentioned and added, “Scientism, Materialism and Sensatism are the rest of the columns which bear the weight of the West’s progress. As peace and environmentalism is essential to futuristics, we need to uphold these values first and foremost in our country to register substantial progress.”

Speaking about the colonial mindset as a stopper for futuristic thinking, Dr. Azam stated that ideas would come before words and therefore ideas should be kept intact and coherent. “Indigenization comes to the fore in this respect. ‘Thank you’ and ‘Sorry’ governed the world by colonial powers for 200 years. They said, ‘Thank you,’ as they usurped world’s resources and mumbled, ‘Sorry’ when you caught them. They are the masters of the diplomatic language, and therefore, we too should at least be informed about the language of diplomacy and the art of it,” Dr. Azam concluded.