How to Use Timelines for Futures Research

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Social Technologies futurist Peter von Stackelberg develops timeline that tracks major US and global trends and events from 1750 to 2100.

The research and consulting firm Social Technologies announces the release of its new global trend and events timeline. The work, developed by Social Technologies futurist and trend expert Peter von Stackelberg, visually depicts the main political, environmental, economic, technological, and social trends since 1750 CE and forecasts how those trends will play out through the year 2100.

"For more than 250 years, timelines have been a useful tool for the temporal visualization of events," explains von Stackelberg, noting that the earliest modern timeline was a 54-foot scroll created in 1753 by Jacques Barbeu-Dubourg that provided an annotated history since Creation. "My timeline, originally published in 1994, is unique in its use of quantitative and qualitative data across a variety of domains, as well as historical and futures perspectives."

Using a seven-step process, von Stackelberg's timeline develops and assesses forecasts based on patterns and historical data. Unlike traditional forecasts, these are not intended to be predictions of the future, but a hypothesis of a possible future that can be monitored and assessed using scanning, trend analysis, and other futures research methods.

"We are at a critical tipping point in history," von Stackelberg believes. "The next two to three decades will see deep, fundamental changes occurring across multiple technological, social, political, economic, and environmental domains. This timeline was developed as a tool to provide insights that will help us understand these changes."    

What the timeline tells us

Some of the possible futures indicated by the timeline are as follows:

  •     A long economic boom beginning around 2010 and lasting through about 2025, followed by an increasingly challenging economic climate lasting at least a decade
  •     A shift in American politics from right of political center to left between 2005 and 2030, followed by a swing of the political pendulum back to the right from the mid-2030s through the early 2050s
  •     Decline of America's global leadership and the rise of one or more challenger states between 2010 and the mid-2030s, with heightened risk of a major global conflict around 2040
  •     Declining influence of the religious right on American politics through the mid-2030s and continued growing interest in alternative spiritual experiences
  •     Increasing social tensions in the US between 2010 and the mid-2030s
  •     Maturing of the communications and information technology sectors and the emergence of the Molecular Age, which will be the key driver of the technological, economic, and social change through the end of the 21st century

"Timelines can be a powerfully effective tool for analyzing events--both in the past and the future--providing insights into long-term changes and provoking thought and discussion about the future," von Stackelberg notes. "We feel that our timeline offers greater insight than many others, with its uniquely rich overlays of events, trends, drivers, and archetypal patterns of change spanning America and the world."

Critical praise

"Peter von Stackleberg's development of the strategy of 'timelining'--the visual representation of the events of history by 'kind' in parallel and correlated tiers--represents a major, qualitative breakthrough in providing a more systematic understanding of the past, explanation of the present, and grounded forecasting of the future," says Reed D. Riner, professor of anthropology at Northern Arizona University. "I have only critical praise of Peter's work."

Learn more
To get more details and a copy of Peter von Stackelberg's timeline, contact him at: peter.vonstackelberg@socialtechnologies.com, or visit http://www.socialtechnologies.com/timeline.

Peter von Stackelberg ) Futurist
Peter von Stackelberg is the leader of Social Technologies' Futures Interactive program, which enables organizations to find, analyze, and disseminate trend information. He brings more than a decade of experience as a futurist, strategic thinker, and writer to this work. Peter also serving as an adjunct professor in strategic management of technology and innovation at the State University of New York-Alfred, and as an advisor to the computer animation program at Alfred State. A journalist by training, he also has an MS in studies of the future from the University of Houston-Clear Lake.

About ) Social Technologies
Social Technologies is a global research and consulting firm specializing in the integration of foresight, strategy, and innovation. With offices in Washington DC, London, and Shanghai, Social Technologies serves the world's leading companies, government agencies, and nonprofits. For information visit http://www.socialtechnologies.com.

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