This year marks the 50th anniversary of the appearance of Futuribili in Italy, and for about 40 years it has analysed Italy, the world and prediction methods in the hundred or more editions published from 1967 to 1974 and from 1994 to the present day. There is always “a need for prediction”, but in truth there are historical moments when this need is great and others in which prediction is all but superfluous because future events are implicit in the current orientation. This unevenness in the need for prediction is reflected in the history of Futuribili, coinciding with the forms it has taken over time. If this is the heart of the current need for prediction, for Futuribili it is more essential than ever to rethink its framework and structure, to broaden its target to a large number of groups, to reach a target readership that is sensitive to effective solutions to the problems posed.
In this editorial, Alberto Gasparini, refounder of “Futuribili” in 1994, shows that 20 years after the demise of “Futuribili” there still is an increasing imperative to inform decision makers of the results of research on the future. While in the late 1970s there was a need to predict the future and come up with answers to social questions, in 1994 reality requires answers to the new questions posed by international changes triggered by the fall of communism. Under such conditions, it is necessary not only to study possible futures, but also to investigate impossible futures to identify their “almost impossible” sides and turn them into possible ones. The aims of new series “Futuribili” are, thus, to resume the project left suspended by Ferraro; gather new scholars around “Futuribili”; strengthen ties with journals such as “Futuribles” and “Futures”; pay close attention to new international themes; reorganise the journal’s structure around theme-based editions under the guidance of guest editors; be more a scientific and cultural forum than a narrowly academic publication and, last but not least, give priority to discussions, dialogue and research which could be linked to some of the international work of the Istituto di Sociologia Internazionale di Gorizia (ISIG), just as the previous series of “Futuribili” under Ferraro had revolved around the Istituto per le Ricerche di Economia Applicata (IREA).
Following a conceptual definition of prediction, emphasising its scientific character, the author concentrates on the links between utopia and prediction, pointing out that modern society is shifting the focus from the “perfection of utopia” to the “workshop of the process”. Unlike traditional society, in modern society change is conceptualised as a normal factor, structurally integrated in the trajectory towards the future, as a result of which it requires different approaches and new methods. The second part of the article is devoted to methods of prediction, reviewing objective and quantitative techniques, qualitative techniques and those which prove to be ambivalent.
The author offers a “portrait” of Pietro Ferraro, founder of “Futuribili”. The purpose is to describe the journal’s leading light and to define the characterstics of a generation which, in the 1960s and ‘70s, felt the need to “invent” the future of society and take the responsibility of changing a world in crisis, a world which needed more democracy and a new relationship with an environment otherwise doomed to die. More than university professors, Pietro Ferraro, Aurelio Peccei, Alexander King and Bertrand de Jouvenel were entrepreneurs, directors of international organisations and intellectuals sensitive to the future. Born in Venice in 1908, Ferraro was the owner of dolomite mining companies, the San Giusto cotton mill in Trieste and the Timavo paper mill in Duino, but was also a leading figure in the Resistance to the Republic of Salò, an enthusiastic sportsman and a critic of Keynesian economics (on which he wrote a number of books from 1947 to 1970). Above all he believed in the idea of The construction of the future as a moral duty (his last book), which lay behind his foundation of the journal “Futuribili”. Pietro Ferraro had a complex character, combining a projection towards the future, an almost aesthetic sense of adventure and intellectual curiosity, an absorption in the practice of knowledge, an infusion of deep moral values in the everyday conduct of his businesses, and the pleasure of building a utopian society in which utopia is more of a movement towards perfection than the achievement of perfection itself.
A century after the creation of the last utopias, it is possible to analyse the overall changes social structures and institutions conceived by utopians have undergone in the modern era. The starting point for written utopias was the indentification of an evil, a single or multiple “social sin”, which was identified as the cause of the pernicious social order against which alternative structures founded on new principles and able to bring happiness to the inhabitants of the future community were suggested. The main function of modern utopias is thus identified in an initial social criticism – latent or manifest – of the socioeconomic conditions of the standing social order. Their analysis of social institutions, such as family, government and social stratification, allows us to distinguish different categories of utopians, based on their desire to eliminate such structures entirely or simply modify their respective weights. The proposals advanced by some authors to exclude certain categories of individuals from the future social order may lead to some considerations on the difficult path of social inclusion.