‘Selling the future’ symposium on 3 March 2017

"The future is being sold on a ‘marketplace of ideas,’ and, in this respect, the market is more of a metaphor than an economic reality. Indeed, the book explores the relationship between those who supply ideas about the future—future predictors, such as academics, think tanks, or rating companies—and those who demand their expertise, including policy makers, the media, and the general public.”

In his new book, Selling the Future. The Perils of Predicting Global Politics, Research Professor Ariel Colonomos (from CERI Sciences Po in Paris) investigates the paradoxes of forecasting and predictions about the future. In a guest lecture on Thursday 2 March, Professor Colonomos explains the key points of his book.

Time: Thursday 2 March, from 15 to 17

Venue: Unioninkatu 35 Aud 116

Following the lecture, a range of questions raised by his book will be discussed in a symposium on Friday 3 March.

Time: Friday 3 March from 9:30-13:00

Venue: The Faculty Meeting Room, Unioninkatu 37, University of Helsinki

Colonomos interrogates today’s sites of knowledge production to reveal how our futures are shaped by social scientists, think-tanks and rating agencies. A central theme of the book is associated with the concept of self-blinding prophecy: future providers blind themselves and this self-blinding prophecy has a stabilizing effect on the economic and political situation. This is closely related to the high degree of conformity to the norm of what is already expected on the part of policy-makers and among the public.

As indicated by the manifold examples of Selling the Future, it seems that the issue of the future has become central in world politics and global political economy, but how new is that really (and within what scale of time)? Experts in think tanks and in rating agencies make predictions and forecasts. To what extent is academic expertise different? To what extent are we responsible for our future claims when these are made publicly? Why is it important to study the future of norms? What are the paradoxes related to future making and how can we explain them? In what ways would it be possible to improve upon out claims about the future?

Interestingly, Colonomos claims, in contrast to many liberal and postmodern thinkers, that predictions and forecasts tend to slow down many of the political or economic processes they are embedded within. Would it be possible to speed up history? Colonomos stresses that it would be important to open up the public space of anticipations to new forms of knowledge, without taking a clear stand how.

From a longer historical perspective, perhaps it can be claimed that the futurized nature of the present has been changing. Increasingly since the Industrial Revolution, claims about the future have become a central point of contestation over organizing the present practices. Social sciences have been deeply involved in this process of transformation. Often their contribution to the reflexive self-regulation of social systems tends to reinforce the existing relations of power. Would it be possible to make social sciences less conservative and more emancipatory in this regard?

Programme in symposium on Friday 3 March :

9:30 Coffee

10:00 Ariel Colonomos introduces the key themes of Selling the Future

and discusses new questions emerging from it

10:20 A comment by Osmo Kuusi related to the futures-maps

10:30 A comment by Hanna Kuusela on the politics of future consultancy

10:40 General discussion

11:15 Heikki Patomäki introduces the idea that the futurized nature of the present

is changing, especially through reflexive self-regulation of social systems

11:30 A comment by Ariel Colonomos

11:40 General discussion

12:00 Break

12:05 Ariel Colonomos talks about the power of credit rating institutions and

how the governance of the world economy is based on future-claims

12:20 A comment by Sami Yläoutinen concerning the objectivity of the

economic forecasts by the Finnish Ministry of Finance

12:30 A comment by Lauri Holappa on the capability of economics to predict

12:40 General discussion

12:55 Conclusions

13:00 Lunch


Ariel Colonomos Research Professor, International Relations, CERI Sciences Po in Paris

Lauri Holappa Doctoral Researcher, World Politics, University of Helsinki

Hanna Kuusela University Researcher, School of Communication, Media and Theatre,

University of Tampere

Osmo Kuusi Senior Researcher, Futures Studies, University of Turku

Heikki Patomäki Professor, World Politics, University of Helsinki

Sami Yläoutinen Economic Policy Coordinator, Ministry of Finance

If you are interested in participating in the symposium, please send an e-mail to professor Heikki Patomäki: heikki.patomaki@helsinki.fi

Morning coffee will be served at 9:30 am before the symposium; and lunch will be served after the symposium at 13:00.