There is something magic about the future that I can’t fully explain, but I felt it strongly at the World Future Society’s early conferences.
Our very first conference, in 1971, showed that a focus on the future had the power to turn people who had been enemies into friendly collaborators. Then, in 1974, the Society’s special forum on energy demonstrated that a future focus also facilitates close collaboration among people with very different backgrounds and concerns. I was especially impressed by the fact that our energy forum succeeded in bringing together “doers” and “thinkers.”
Our principal speaker at the Energy Forum, Gerald Ford, would soon become President of the United States, hence America’s chief doer. He would have overall responsibility for setting the U.S. government’s energy policies. We also had on our program the Nobel Prize–winning scientist Glenn T. Seaborg, who had discovered plutonium and served as chairman of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. Seaborg was perhaps the world’s most profound thinker on the subject of energy.
At our Forum, Ford and Seaborg came literally face to face and shared their views with 550 other thinkers and doers who were also concerned with the complex problems of using energy wisely. So I felt the meeting was an extraordinary success, even though it had left us financially on the edge of bankruptcy.
Clearly we had come a long way in the seven years since the Society’s founding in 1966. Back then, futurists were viewed as oddities, freaks, crystal-ball gazers, tea-leaf readers, science-fiction nuts, weirdoes, or worse. Now, in the company of people like Gerald Ford and Glenn Seaborg, futurists were getting some respect.
Our improved status was due primarily to the extraordinary help we got from our members and friends. Though very few donated money, there must have been a thousand or more by 1974 who had helped by providing voluntary services of one kind or another. They contributed articles to THE FUTURIST, spoke at Society meetings without requiring payment, or helped organize Society chapters and events. This voluntary support was tremendously heart-warming and helped me keep optimistic despite our financial perils.
It is impossible to acknowledge all the people who helped the Society in one way or another during its early years, but I must mention the unique role played by Alvin and Heidi Toffler.