Academics and Research / Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Forecaster funds futures center at DU

Frederick Pardee has always taken the long view.

His first job was working on a report about the future of space for the U.S. government at a time when humans had only just sent the first man-made satellite into orbit. And when President John F. Kennedy announced his plans to send people to the moon a few years later, Pardee became one of a small group involved with figuring out how much such an undertaking might cost, as well as “what one might do there when one got there.”

Even though Pardee’s professional career eventually moved away from developing technological and economic forecasts and into real estate investment, figuring out what the future might hold remained a central focus in his life.

“What I am particularly interested in is the global human condition and the various factors that impact it,” he says.

In recent years, the investor-philanthropist has supported research centers that study possible future developments at his former employer, the RAND Corp., and at his alma mater, Boston University.

Last year, he gave a $7.45 million gift to establish the Frederick S. Pardee Center for International Futures at DU’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies. The center is directed by Barry Hughes, inventor of the International Futures computer modeling system.

One of the center’s missions is to produce a five-volume series called Patterns of Potential Human Progress, which will explore issues related to human development. The first volume, Reducing Global Poverty, came out this year.

The series centers around issues of global justice and equality, topics Pardee says are very important to him. “There is such extreme global inequality,” he says. “Some say that inequality is increasing, and there is considerable evidence that that is true.”

A significant portion of the population has done extremely well over the last two or three decades, at least monetarily, he says. For example, 20 or 30 percent of the populations of India and China are now moving into the middle class.

“But I am concerned with the 15 percent or so that are not making such movements,” Pardee says. Projections by Hughes and others show that the most rapid population growth is going to happen on the African continent, where the population is expected to climb from 900 million to 2.2 billion within the next 50 years or so, Pardee says.

“Conditions for the people there are not going to have improved all that much, and something needs to be done about that. The beauty of Barry’s work is that it helps to formulate alternative scenarios of the future and shows how components of one scenario will impact large portions of the human populous more favorably than other scenarios.

“My hope is that the Patterns of Potential Human Progress volumes will have a positive impact on the condition of the human species.”

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