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Tweaking Cascio’s Futurist Bibliography

At Fast Company, Jamais Cascio unveiled a short bibliography for the general reader on Futurist thinking.

Futures Thinking: A Bibliography

As you probably picked up from earlier entries in the Futures Thinking series, foresight work is intensely information-based. If you’re going to make grounded projections of future possibilities, you have understand both what has led us to the point we’re at today, and what kinds of issues seem to be shaping up as emerging drivers. A few pieces to trigger some creative thoughts can help, too.

As I suggested in Futures Thinking: Scanning the World, a good deal of the reading you’ll be doing will be in the form of websites and journals. This isn’t surprising; part of the service provided by foresight workers is sensitivity to early warnings of big changes. It will be tempting to focus on science and technology materials, in part because there tends to be an overlap between people interested in futures work and people interested in new tech toys, and in part because the pace and pattern of change is easier to see in science and technology than it is in many other realms. It’s not necessarily more “objective,” but it’s perceived as less ambiguous.

That was the introduction, you can read the rest here. Now on to Cascio’s recommendations:


These two books are good resources for understanding methodologies of futures work. Schwartz co-founded Global Business Network, and Johansen is a Distinguished Fellow at the Institute for the Future. (Disclosure: I’ve worked with Peter, and currently work with Bob.)

  • Art of the Long View, Peter Schwartz
  • Get There Early, Bob Johansen


Foresight is anticipatory history. These three books offer very different perspectives on how to think about the past — which, in turn, help to shape how we should think about the future. Polanyi is a classical theorist, looking at ideas and states; Zinn is a populist, looking at the lives of regular people; Diamond is an ecologist, looking at the intersection of culture and environment. I end up mixing these three approaches in my own work.

  • The Great Transformation, Karl Polanyi
  • A People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn
  • Collapse, Jared Diamond


Easily the largest section of my personal library, I could have made the list of Analysis books ten times longer. The ones I’ve picked here, however, offer for me a set of cogent insights into how we live with the tools we make. The ideal result from reading a book in this category should be an epiphany moment where you can see all sorts of links from the book’s ideas to other books/ideas you’ve encountered. All of these books gave me that kind of moment.

  • Smart Mobs, Howard Rheingold
  • The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs
  • Everyware, Adam Greenfield
  • Plan B, Lester Brown
  • Radical Evolution, Joel Garreau
  • Brave New War, John Robb
  • No Logo, Naomi Klein


The highest compliment I can give a science fiction book is that it’s “plausibly surreal” — it manages to feel like a relentless extrapolation from today even as it overwhelms with unexpected consequences of that extrapolation. I’ve read each of these are books multiple times, and I still get a giddy feeling of discovery every time.

  • Accelerando, Charlie Stross
  • Transmetropolitan series, Warren Ellis & Darrick Roberts
  • Holy Fire, Bruce Sterling
  • The Bohr Maker, Linda Nagata
  • Rainbows End, Vernor Vinge
  • Red Mars/Green Mars/Blue Mars trilogy, Kim Stanley Robinson

I am not familiar with all of these books. The Art of the Long View is considered to be a classic and I will give a very strong recommendation to Brave New War and Smart Mobs.

What would I add to this list?:


Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision by Roberta Wohlstetter

The Next Two Hundred Years: A Scenario for America and the World by William Morle Brown and Herman Kahn


From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life 1500 to the Present by Jacques Barzun

A History of Knowledge: Past, Present, and Future by Charles van Doren


Masks of the Universe: Changing Ideas on the Nature of the Cosmos by Edward Robert Harrison

Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge by Edward O. Wilson

Powershift: Knowledge, Wealth, and Violence at the Edge of the 21st Century by Alvin Toffler

I’m not a frequent enough consumer of science fiction to have noteworthy recommendations for “Inspiration”. There are obvious authors who come to mind – Asimov, Dick, Heinlein, Gibson, Clarke – but I’ll leave it to readers here to nominate titles in the comments section.

9 Responses to “Tweaking Cascio’s Futurist Bibliography”

  1. A.E. Says:

    I think the names you mentioned are more than enough for sci-fi. Asimov may have some lessons for grand strategy as well….

  2. seerov Says:

    One author/thinker that I learned some good insight from regarding future thinking is George Friedman.  Sometimes it surprises me how much forecasting methodology Stratfor offers.  Geopolitics are the patterns of power considered over space.  When thinking about any entity’s future one should examine its geographical patterns, and the locations its likely to interact with when pursuing its interests.  
     Another good angle to consider (when thinking about the future) in business and economic forecasting.  Although I’m not really a math guy, I got a lot out of the forecasting I learned in several college classes.  The forecasting methods I learned in operations management, corporate finance, and econometrics have helped me understand how organizations plan for the future. 
    John Robb has taught us something extremely important when it comes to thinking about the future.  The best way to prepare for the future is to be resilient. Resiliency is operating within the futures’ OODA loop.  The future is uncertain, but resiliency moves us away from reaction to taking control of our own futures. 
    I am currently focused on demographic futures.  I see two main frames in forecasting.  The Environment and the Entity (firm, nation, tribe,family,elite).  The entity operates within the environment.  The entity can shape the environment, and the entity is a product of the environment. The environment exists as the sum of past environments.  Demography is useful for forecasting future environments. Business forecasting and using a decision tree is better for framing the entity’s future.  




  3. A.E. Says:

    I would also not recommend anything from Zinn on the history list.

  4. zen Says:

    I wouldn’t either. Zinn was an affable man and an effective teacher who wrote "the" popular counternarrative history and made himself a mini pop culture celebrity. Unfortunately, for most of Zinn’s fans, that’s the only history book they ever read and it was picked up mostly to confirm their prejudices.
    Zinn is, however, light years better than Chomsky.

  5. A.E. Says:

    I also wonder if any of them would have picked it up if it weren’t for the Good Will Hunting reference.

  6. Chris Says:

    I’d like to echo the recommendation for Vinge’s Rainbows End.  The basic premise of the book is the hunt for a superempowered individual, but it also discusses the impact to a society where one has ubiquitous wearable computing.  Other interesting bits include some brief vignettes on the military applications of data mining.  Also, a couple of the protagonists are Marines.  So, you know it’s got to be good, right?Semper Fi,Chris

  7. seerov Says:

     Unfortunately, for most of Zinn’s fans, that’s the only history book they ever read and it was picked up mostly to confirm their prejudices.(zen)
    Correct, in 100 years people will be analyzing the work of Zinn as religious text; not as history.  Historians will look back and teach students about the cult of diversity that persecuted heretics for not groveling properly in the name of tolerance.  This era will be taught next to the Inquisition and Salem witch trials.   

  8. Shlok Says:

    What. No Toffler love? 

  9. Fernando Hudack Says:

    Keep operating ,fantastic work!

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