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Engaging Ideas

Thinking About the Global Future

What are the human prospects for the future?

This Engaging Idea explores the question of human progress and the International Futures (IFs) model, a tool developed by Dr. Hughes which is used by countries around the world to help understand potential impacts of proposed policies.


Photo of Barry Hughes

 Dr. Barry B. Hughes is the Founder of the Frederick S. Pardee Center for International Futures and is John Evans Professor at the Josef Korbel School for International Studies at the University of Denver. He served the university as Vice Provost for Graduate Studies during the 1990s.

His principal research interests are in the areas of (1) global change, (2) computer simulation models for economic, energy, food, population, environmental, and socio-political forecasting, and (3) policy analysis. The fundamental concerns that synthesize these various interests are (1) developing effective response to long-term global change and (2) improving the long-term human condition. He has developed a widely used computer simulation called International Futures (IFs) for study of long-term issues by students and policy makers.

Hughes earned a B.S. in Mathematics from Stanford in 1967 (distinction) and his Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Minnesota in 1970.

 More on the Subject

  1. IFs Version 7.31 main menu
  2. International Futures (IFs) and integrated, long-term forecasting of global transformations, by Barry B. Hughes
  3. Is the world really better than ever? by Oliver Burekman, the Guardian

Questions for personal reflection or group discussion

  1. Does the framing of global change in terms of human, social, and sustainable development help us think about possible futures and, if so, how?
  2. How would we describe the future we want to see, say in mid-century when today’s new-borns are moving into their prime family and working years?
  3. Is global change taking us in a mostly positive or mostly negative direction and, what do we look at to make that evaluation?
  4. What are some of the most important leverage points for making the overall pattern of global (or even more local) change a positive one?
  5. What might some of us do to help slightly bend the curve? (Steven Jobs said he wanted to make a dent in the universe and that is perhaps more ambitious than we can pretend to be.)

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