Quantitative Analysis of Technology Futures Part 2

Nesta Working Paper 13/09
Issued: May 2013
Keywords: FTA; policy appraisal; Big Data; knowledge


Quantitative techniques for exploring future developments in science and technology (here called future-oriented technology analysis (FTA)) are increasingly important in an era of Big Data and growing computational power. New quantitative techniques such as social software, prediction markets, and quantitative scenarios are complementing more traditional foresight and forecasting techniques. While these techniques hold great  promise, it is unclear how robust and appropriate is their use under different contexts. In order to help users think through their distinct values and limitations, in this paper we discuss quantitative FTA techniques in the light of a general analytical framework.

Following Stirling\& Scoones (2009), we position FTA quantitative techniques according to their representation of (the incompleteness) of knowledge - i.e. the extent to which they portray their knowledge on probabilities and outcomes as problematic. This framework illuminates the implicit assumptions about the uncertainty, ambiguity and ignorance that distinct quantitative techniques make when exploring (in some cases ''predicting'') the future. We distinguish between techniques that tend to 'open up' awareness of new or unexpected futures, and others that tend to 'close down' by pointing out to likely futures.


Tommaso Ciarli, Alex Coad and Ismael Rafols

The Nesta Working Paper Series is intended to make available early results of research undertaken or supported by Nesta and its partners in order to elicit comments and suggestions for revisions and to encourage discussion and further debate prior to publication (ISSN 2050-9820). The views expressed in this working paper are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent those of Nesta.