Environmental Foresight and Forecasting Environmental Change.
Begun in 1993, the International Task Force in Forecasting Environmental
Change completed its work in 2002 with publication of the Monograph
Environmental Foresight and Models: A Manifesto (Elsevier, Oxford)
[see outline at http://www.elsevier.com/locate/isbn/008044086X].
The deliberations of the Task Force have in large part determined
the agenda of our current program in Environmental Informatics
and Control. They have assisted us in formulating the kinds
of questions we see at the cusp of the turning point in the
use of models in Environmental Science and Technology. The issue,
in essence, is not one of proceeding from gathering the data,
to developing a model, and then to making projections of future
behavior. It is rather the reverse: of determining whether future
patterns of behavior as imagined by stakeholders or as
specified by policy-makers (including behavior in the more distant
future) are technically "reachable", given
our current understanding, with all its flaws and uncertainties.
It is about identifying those parameters in the map of the science
base (the model) key to the reaching of such feared or desired
futures, for it is these "scientific unknowns" that
may therefore emerge as priorities for attracting further scrutiny.
Our premise is that knowledge, and hence the structure of our
models, is evolving continuously. Contemplating future possibilities
and options must be conducted in a setting in which structural
change, dislocations, and shifts of behavior are the norm. A
large part of the purpose of model-building must accordingly
be to maximize the probability of detecting the first signs
of these changes in the accumulating records of past behavior,
to characterize them, and thus to generate possible patterns
of future behavior, if such dislocations of structure were to
be propagated into the future. The Monograph sets out the beginnings
of an approach to exploring environmental futures under these
presumptions. We are now building upon those beginnings, taking
a strategic look at the coming needs of environmental modeling
(in general). We are also, unexpectedly, mapping these problem-solution
couples from environmental science onto the landscape of problem-solution
couples in the biomedical sciences, in particular, in order
to examine structural change in the organization and function
of the human liver (in collaboration with the Medical School
of the University of California, San Francisco).