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The Great Future Debate and the Struggle for the World

Abstract : In 1964, two researchers at RAND, Olaf Helmer and Theodore Gordon, presented what they argued was a general theory of prediction, a theory that, Helmer boasted, would “enabl[e] us to deal with socio-economic and political problems as confidently as we do with problems in physics and chemistry.” Work had begun at RAND in the early 1960s to find a systematic and scientific approach to the future. Computers had made it possible to “amass all available information” about ongoing developments and process it in a systematic way, providing “the kind of massive data processing and interpreting capability that, in the physical sciences, created the breakthrough which led to the development of the atomic bomb.” This meant a radical shift in notions of the future, a shift that was emphasized by many of the futurists of the period. The future, Helmer stated in another assertive piece, could now be liberated from the grip of utopian fantasy and superstition and be welcomed into the halls of science.
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Jenny Andersson. The Great Future Debate and the Struggle for the World. American Historical Review, Oxford University Press (OUP), 2012, 5 (117), pp.1411-1430. ⟨hal-01355594⟩



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