Futures is an interdisciplinary field, studying yesterday's and today's changes, and aggregating and analyzing both lay and professional strategies, and opinions with respect to tomorrow.
It includes analyzing the sources, patterns, and causes of change and stability in the attempt to develop foresight and to map possible futures.
The concept of the future has been explored extensively in cultural production, including art movements and genres devoted entirely to its elucidation, such as the 20th century movement futurism.
Forecasting is the process of estimating outcomes in uncontrolled situations.
Religious figures such as prophets and diviners have claimed to see into the future.
Organized efforts to predict or forecast the future may have derived from observations by early men of heavenly objects.
Three factors usually distinguish futures studies from the research conducted by other disciplines (although all disciplines overlap, to differing degrees).
First, futures studies often examines not only possible but also probable, preferable, and "wild card" futures.
Religions consider the future when they address issues such as karma, life after death, and eschatologies that study what the end of time and the end of the world will be.
Prediction is similar to forecasting but is used more generally, for instance to also include baseless claims on the future.
Organized efforts to predict the future began with practices like astrology, haruspicy, and augury.
If the causes are understood, projections of the influencing variables can be made and used in the forecast.
Judgmental forecasting methods incorporate intuitive judgments, opinions and probability estimates, as in the case of the Delphi method, scenario building, and simulations.