Five Decades of Futuring: Celebrating THE FUTURIST Legacy and Our History

Founded in 1966, the World Future Society is celebrated as the largest, most influential, and longest-running community of futurists and future thinkers in the world. For the past five decades, our members have been at the forefront of defining what it means to embrace a Futurist Mindset.

WFS members established and built futurism from the ground up — through publications, global summits, and advisory roles to world leaders in business and governments.

Meet Our Founders

The World Future Society was founded in 1966 by Edward Cornish at a time of great uncertainty. The Cuban Missile Crisis, the production of plutonium, and the uncertainties of a society in transition were at the forefront of many people’s minds. The purpose of the World Future Society was to gather together brilliant people to tackle the dangerous challenges of the time.

Edward Cornish and Herman Kahn in World Future Society’s headquarters, 1980

Edward Cornish also served as an advisor to three U.S. Presidents, was founding editor of THE FUTURIST magazine, and authored the foundational futurist book Futuring: The Exploration of the Future.

Jeff Cornish (son of Edward) helped build the organization and has been a strong advocate for WFS, revitalizing its mission and programming. He also served as the Society’s business manager for 36 years, from 1978–2014.

In 2016, visionary female futurist Julie Friedman Steele took over WFS as the Board Chair and CEO.

Jeff Cornish, Edward Cornish, and Julie Friedman Steele, 2016
“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.” — Edward Cornish
A tribute to Edward Cornish upon his retirement, 2014

WFS Legacy & Accomplishments

World Future Society members established futurism as a credible pursuit in academia, business, and public policy. This is just a sampling of how our member have contributed to futurism and future studies across the globe. 🌏

The Founders of “Futurism”

World Future Society members established futurism as a credible pursuit in academia, business, and public policy across the globe.

By 1970, WFS was already 4,000 members strong, with chapters and committees hailing from 56 cities across the globe, representing all different backgrounds and industries with a common interest in understanding and shaping the future.

The first graduate programs in Future Studies were founded by WFS members in 1975 at the University of Houston and in 1976 at the University of Hawaii.

Today, Future Studies is taught at hundreds of universities across the globe, and its methods are routinely used by businesses, governments, and consulting firms everywhere. From “change management” to “scenarios” to “forecasting,” it all started here.

The Original Publication House for the Future

WFS was alsothe first organization to publish exclusively about the future.

From THE FUTURIST Magazine to the World Future Review Academic Journal to many hundreds of books and special edition publications, WFS led the publishing industry in awakening global citizens to the challenges and possibilities shaping the future. Our members and contributing authors have been at the cutting edge of anticipating the future, from global warming in the 1970s to virtual reality in the 1990s.

Trusted Advisors to Global Leaders

WFS members have been at the forefront of advising businesses and governments for decades.

As consultants and trusted advisors to CEOs, politicians, and other leading decision-makers, our membership has spent decades advising leaders as they’ve navigated the most challenging issues of their time. WFS Founder Ed Cornish served as an advisor to three U.S. Presidents, and WFS members have headed leading foresight consultancies such as SRI International, RAND Corporation, and the Global Business Network.

WFS members also helping to found the U.S. Office of Technology Assessment and the Congressional Clearinghouse on the Future, which had more than 100 members of the U.S. Congress.

Ronald Reagan’s 1985 Lunch with Futurists (Edward Cornish is was seated next to Reagan)

Conveners of Global Futurist Summits

The annual World Future Society Summits regularly bring together leading-edge thinkers and doers from across the globe.

From professional futurists to enthusiastic hobbyists — including leading political figures and fortune 500 CEOs — WFS annual summits have attracted thousands of people from every sector of society and from more than 82 countries in the spirit of building a better future for all.

WFS Summits have hosted as many as 7,000 participants at a single event, and keynote speakers have included Herman Kahn, Buckminster Fuller, Margaret Meade, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Alvin and Heidi Toffler, Ray Kurzweil, Gerald Ford, Walter Mondale, Al Gore, and more.

Remastered Photo from THE FUTURIST magazine, 1975

Five Decades of Futuring

For 50+ years, presidents, famous authors, scientists, and experts have celebrated the World Future Society and THE FUTURIST magazine for spearheading cutting-edge conversations, conferences, and publications.

“I have been an enthusiastic reader of THE FUTURIST for many years, and applaud you on an excellent publication. It is hard to find people or publications that give serious consideration to what the future will be like.” — Ray Kurzweil

Here are just a few of the many outstanding individuals who have made incredible contributions to our organization and the world at large.

Buckminster Fuller

R. Buckminster Fuller

(B. 1895, D. 1983)

“Bucky” Fuller believed technology could be used to improve the life of everyone on “Spaceship Earth.” A recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Bucky spread the idea that given Earth’s limited resources, humanity could make significant positive, eco-conscious impacts. Fuller is also renowned for inventing the geodesic dome, sometimes referred to as a lattice-shell dome.

Alvin Toffler

Alvin Toffler

(B. 1928, D. 2016)

Alvin Toffler coined the phrases “information overload” and “future shock.” Toffler’s reach was worldwide, even identified by China’s People’s Daily as one of the 50 foreigners who shaped modern China. His first major book about the future, Future Shock, was a worldwide best-seller, selling 6 million+ copies.

Herman Kahn

Herman Kahn

(B. 1922, D. 1983)

Herman Kahn’s work focused on national security and public policy, especially the application of game theory to thermonuclear war. Kahn believed that nuclear war could be won rather than viewing it as a lose-lose situation. Kahn founded the Hudson Institute think tank with former colleagues from the Rand Corporation. At the time of his death, Kahn was working on an educational program designed “to redress the imbalance of unrelenting negativism” in public school curricula on the future.

Al Gore

Al Gore

(B. 1948)

Former Vice President Al Gore is an environmental activist and advocate with a track record of supporting robotics and biotech, among other advanced technologies. He is credited with popularizing the phrase “information superhighway” and is perhaps the most famous of the Atari Democrats, so called because of their commitment to tech as a job creator and economy driver.

Peter Drucker

Peter Drucker

(B. 1909, D. 2005)

Peter Drucker, who has been called the “founder of modern management,” advocated that private corporations had as much responsibility to society as the public sector. He presented the concepts of management in corporations with a focus on workers over profit and production. Drucker saw human capital as key.

Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan

(B. 1934, D. 1996)

Well known for his research on and search for extraterrestrial life, Carl Sagan was deeply involved in the Pioneer plaque and the Voyager Golden Record, messages sent into space as outreach to other life forms. The majority of his career was spent at Cornell University, where he was a Professor of Astronomy and Space Sciences and Director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies. Sagan’s show Cosmos has been viewed by 500 million people worldwide.

Margaret Mead

Margaret Mead

(B. 1901, D. 1978)

Margaret Mead is best known for her work in cultural anthropology, particularly in the South Pacific and Southeast Asia. Mead’s work was controversial, drawing criticism from both sides of the nurture vs. nature debate. Mead’s “nurture over nature” work impacted feminism and the 1960s sexual revolution.

Gene Roddenberry

Gene Roddenberry

(B. 1921, D. 1991)

Perhaps best known for his role creating the Star Trek television series, Roddenberry also flew numerous combat missions during World War II, flew commercial flights for Pan American World Airways, and worked in the Los Angeles Police Department.

Gerald Ford

Gerald Ford

(B. 1913, D. 2006)

President Gerald Ford became the 38th President of the United States upon the resignation of Richard Nixon. Fun fact: he had also become the 40th Vice President after Spiro Agnew resigned.

Neil deGrasse Tyson

Neil deGrasse Tyson

(B. 1958)

Neil deGrasse Tyson is the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium (which he also visited as a child) at the Rose Center for Earth and Space in New York City, a part of the American Museum of Natural History. Tyson, an astrophysicist, also hosted a Cosmos television series, a successor to Carl Sagan’s Cosmos.

Sir Arthur C. Clarke

Sir Arthur C. Clarke

(B. 1917, D. 2008)

Sir Arthur C. Clarke was co-writer on the screenplay of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Clarke was a prolific science fiction and nonfiction author, as well as an experienced scuba diver who made several underwater discoveries. Clarke served as the first Chancellor of the International Space University.

The World Future Society welcomes anyone who is open-minded, hopeful about the future, and eager to roll up their sleeves to join us in our community of friends, future-thinkers, and collaborators.

Learn more and become a member today! 💫