What is Long Term?
We define long-term and futures thinking in an education setting by using relative, applied time horizons. For example, fashion changes rapidly in yearly cycles, markets may change in decades, infrastructure in multiple generations, governance in centuries and nature in millennia. Our focus is on teaching how to understand the value of and build the skills to discuss issues appropriately at various time horizons, whether decades, centuries, or millennia. Long-term and futures thinking creates an emergent future informed by deep past and deep future thinking.
The objectives of this experimental project are:
- To encourage students and faculty to think more critically and creatively about long-term futures.
- To teach faculty and students — particularly from disadvantaged backgrounds –to understand, develop, practice and value long-term thinking.
- To incorporate long-term thinking into curriculum and student development, particularly the development of critical, creative and collaborative thinking about complex challenges at multiple levels.
- To develop, test and apply models and techniques by which students at the K-12 levels will learn long term/futures thinking, and to expedite their adoption.
- To extend and test the student’s abilities to develop effective and sustainable responses to personal, professional, and civic challenges.
- To create a framework for an academic field of study of defining, understanding and achieving long term projects.
The project was established in 2012 with a three-year seed grant from an individual donor and in partnership with the Long Now Foundation. It is closely aligned with the University’s institutional learning outcomes and shared strategic commitments. The Long Now Foundation was established in 1996 to creatively foster long-term thinking and responsibility in the framework of the next 10,000 years. Our work with students is guided by the principles of many of the world’s thought leaders in this field. The Foundation’s seminars about long-term thinking provide an introduction to this field.