If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties.
--Sir Francis Bacon
The Advancement of Learning
The Air Force is embarked on a mission to improve its long-range planning (see appendix A). An important aspect of that mission is to envision the future so the Air Force can position itself to provide the required capabilities. This chapter discusses how the Alternate Futures team derived visions of six alternate futures. To accomplish this, 2025 study participants analyzed current trends (see appendix B), studied the work and methods of respected futurists1 and scientists,2 and considered possible impacts of "wild cards"3 or surprises. This review provided a foundation from which to begin analyzing possible "drivers"-the factors which will drive major changes in the world over the next 30 years. The interactions of these drivers produced an infinite number of worlds; six were selected as the most interesting or stressful for the customer. Plausible histories and descriptions of unique features provided detail to these futures and linked them to today. This approach created viable futures which stepped beyond mere extrapolations of current trends. The steps of the alternate futures process are4
- selecting the drivers,
- defining the drivers,
- creating the strategic planning space,
- naming and selecting worlds of interest,
- describing the "nature of" and features of each world, and
- developing plausible histories.