The World Future Society's Emergence from Dream to Reality

The World Future Society was still just a dream when we announced its founding on October 28, 1966. The Society had no members, no headquarters, no money, no institutional backing, and no legal recognition. But our tiny organizing committee in Washington, D.C., had succeeded in melding our individual dreams into a shared dream: We had achieved a fairly clear vision of what we wanted the Society to be.

We also had weathered our first crisis: Just before we announced the Society’s founding, David Goldberg, who had been a key member of our organizing committee, abruptly withdrew as a vice president and secretary of the Society without giving a clear explanation. I was surprised and dismayed by his unexpected withdrawal, and, for a long moment, I feared that others might also desert, and the Society would become just another failed dream.

But the two other key members of our organizing committee — Charles W. Williams Jr. and Peter Zuckerman — moved immediately to heal the breach. Before I even got word of Goldberg’s withdrawal, Williams had spoken to Zuckerman, our prospective treasurer, about taking on the additional duty of being the Society’s secretary, which was to have been one of Goldberg’s duties. Zuckerman proved willing. So we moved right ahead with our announcement of the Society’s founding.

The calmness that Williams and Zuckerman exhibited in responding to this early threat to our enterprise heartened me enormously. They showed themselves to be reliable, competent, and trustworthy in a crisis — and they remained steadfast allies during the Society’s critical early years.

So the Society began life with a Board consisting of myself as president, Williams as vice president, and Zuckerman as secretary-treasurer. In the years ahead, the three of us worked together harmoniously with the help of numerous others to nurse our shared dream toward a reality. Meanwhile, Goldberg continued to participate in Society activities, but he never again played a key role in the Society’s leadership.

After we announced the Society’s founding, Williams began drafting the Society’s bylaws and preparing an initial development plan. He also became the public face of the Society. His job at the National Science Foundation put him solidly in with Washington’s scientific and policy-making establishment, and he welcomed the opportunity to become more visible in that community. Williams proved to be an impressive advocate for the Society as well as an excellent speaker and master of ceremonies at Society functions.

Meanwhile, Zuckerman and I focused on practical tasks that needed doing. Zuckerman kept excellent minutes of our meetings — I have relied heavily on his notes in preparing this memoir — and he performed meticulously the duties of treasurer, once he had some money to take charge of! Later on, Zuckerman’s intimate knowledge of computers and systems would enable the infant World Future Society to computerize its membership and financial records at a time when few other associations in Washington had made the transition.

As for myself, I concentrated on two urgent tasks: The first was to prepare a brochure describing the Society so we could start recruiting members, and the second was to edit and publish the first issue of THE FUTURIST, the newsletter that we were promising our future members. These tasks had to be done immediately, and the Society had no money to pay anybody to do it.

I thought that I could handle the writing and editing of THE FUTURIST, but I knew nothing about publishing — typesetting, layout, graphic art, printing, inventory, mailing, etc. — and even less (if that be possible) about being an association leader. In short, I was in trouble. What had I gotten myself into?