The Tokyo Foundation for Policy Research


The Tokyo Foundation for Policy Research

Future Design: Bequeathing Sustainable Natural Environments and Sustainable Societies to Future Generations

September 3, 2020

The following article, published for review on August 11, 2020, is reprinted from the open-access Sustainability 2020 Special Issue on Future Design.


“Future Design,” a new movement among Japanese researchers and stakeholders, asks the following question: What types of social systems are necessary if we are to leave future generations sustainable environments and societies? Looking at the human activity impact on the global environment and society, I ask: Why is this society we live in generating a series of future failures that will cost future generations so much? I then argue that the source of such a society could be liberalism and that the market and democracy derived from it will not help avoid these future failures. To achieve this, one must design social systems that activate a human trait called futurability, where people experience an increase in happiness because of deciding and acting toward foregoing current benefits to enrich future generations. One method to study these is by employing “imaginary future generations”. Here, I present an overview of the theoretical background of this method, the results of relevant laboratory and field experiments, and the nature of relevant practical applications implemented in cooperation with several local governments.

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