Changing Images of Man (1974)

August 5, 2018


Editor : OW Markley and Willis W Harman

Publish : 1974

Format File : PDF

Preview : Changing Images of Man is an unusual work, one that enthuses some, displeases others, and leaves few neutral. It was undertaken for a specific purpose: to chart, insofar as possible, what changes in the conceptual premises underlying Western society would lead to a desirable future. Obviously a research objective containing
many value-laden assumptions!

Thus it is perhaps not surprising that a number of questions about the background of this study have been asked by students in classes at the dozen or so colleges and universities that have used Changing Images of Man as a text.

The most common questions concern the study’s origins. Why was it undertaken ? Who supported it ? What kinds of researchers wrote it ?

Additionally, most have wanted to know how it is viewed now, some 7 years later, by the researchers who wrote it. And what it may have led to by way of social change. The purpose of this introduction to the Pergamon edition is to
answer some of these questions.

In 1968 the U.S. Office of Education launched two research centers in an ambitious undertaking to “investigate alternative future possibilities for the society and their implications for educational policy.” One of these Educational Policy Research Centers, or EPRCs as they were called, was established at Syracuse University, the other at SRI International (then known as the Stanford Research Institute). The SRI center, after assessing available methodologies, chose to develop a totally new approach. First, we attempted to identify and assess the plausibility of a truly vast number of future possibilities for society. We next followed a method of analysis that determined which sequences of possible futures (that is, which “alternate future histories”) appeared to be most plausible in light of human history and to most usefully serve the needs of policy research and development. Lastly, we derived a variety of policy implications, some of which dealt with how best to continue this type of inquiry (Harman, Markley, and
Rhyne, 1973; Rhyne, 1974).

From this exercise a surprising-and very sobering-conclusion emerged. Of some fifty highly plausible future histories, only a handful were by usual standards at all desirable (Harman, 1969).

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