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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Making of the Future: Limits of and Alternatives to Forecasting in the Planning Process

  • Author(s): Hsing, You-tien
  • et al.

One of the distinctive features of planning is its orientation toward the future and its attempt to cope with uncertainties about the future. In planning practice, the task of predicting the future is mainly materi­ alized in projections and forecasts. However, when using projection and forecast in planning processes, we often encounter the problem of inconsistency between the forecast, the plan, and the outcome. In this paper, I will review the major limits of forecasting methods, then explore alternative ones. I propose that the problems of existing fore­ casting methods are mainly due to the use of pre-fixed and narrowly­ defined models to apprehend the dynamic social processes in which planning actions as well as socio-economic and political forces interact. This general problem is to be analyzed at three levels. At the technical level, the need for manageable models and the lack of .adequate information have been the major limits of forecasting; at the epistemo­ logical level, the static prediction of a contingent future has inevitably led to contradictions between forecasting and planning; at the political level, political use of forecasts and incoherence between political prerequisites of the plan and the existing political structure have greatly contributed to the problem.

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