ES.256 | Spring 2008 | Undergraduate

The Coming Years


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 2 hours / session


In this seminar, we will explore what the future might hold. We will draw upon anthropology, history, human system dynamics, fiction, and current movements to illuminate our speculations. Our fields of interest will include changes in science and technology, culture and lifestyles, and dominant paradigms and societies. Each aspect, we’ll try to predict 20 years out, and then project into the future. The scope of the class will range from the effects of the internet over the next decade, to the worldwide political changes we can expect in the next century, to the feats of engineering that might emerge in the coming millennium. Class will be organized around discussion, with assignments including reading and writing of non-fiction and fiction, scenario games, simulations, and creative design.

Class Expectations

Our time each week will be divided as follows:

  • 2 meeting hours
  • 2 hours reading
  • 2 hours homework (writing fiction, creating and experimenting with simulations)

Final Project

For the last five weeks of the semester, out-of-class time will be largely used for working on a final project. Each student or group of students will choose a project, which must have a simulation component, a creative component, and a research component.


1 Introduction and the recent past
2 Techniques in futurology
3 Historigraphic theories: class struggle, cycles, and paradigm shifts
4 Catastrophic change, power laws, and fractals
5 Disasters and collapses: nuclear war, global warming, peak oil, bioterrorism
6 The singularity
7 World changing, revelations, and revolutions
8 Future politics
9 Society in motion
10 Science and technology
11 Economics and demographics
12 Describing the future
13 Memetics
14 Final project presentations

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2008
Learning Resource Types
Lecture Notes
Written Assignments
Activity Assignments