Philosophical Society of Washington

Reviving “the Problematique”

Joseph Coates
Consulting Futurist, Inc.

2237th Meeting Abstract
Friday, April 11, 2008 at 8:15 PM


Decades ago, our collective thinking about the big problems all nations face was given a new term by the Club of Rome. “The problematique” means the inevitable and often strong linkages among the problems we tend to specify and consider in isolation from each. It is instantly clear as a concept, but unfortunately it is difficult to develop from it actionable plans, programs, and projects commensurate with its scope. The author will describe by example why that shortfall in actionable thinking so often occurs.

The author believes that the term should be revived and made a useful concept for intellectuals, scholars, scientists and engineers, policy analysts, business and governmental leaders, and ordinary folks. The presentation will illustrate and demonstrate how to move toward defining a problematique and the necessary factors and components which must be attended to in a comprehensive program to reduce its troublesome significance.

Joseph Coates

About the Author:

Joseph F. Coates is Head of Consulting Futurist, Inc. He was founding president of Coates and Jarratt, Inc., from 1979 through 2001. The firm was committed exclusively to the study of the future. He has consulted with 45 of the Fortune 100 companies, numerous smaller firms, trade, professional, and public interest groups, and all levels of government. He lectures to many groups per year about trends and future developments.

He is the author or co-author of six books, most recently A Bill of Rights for 21st Century America (BookSurge Publishing, 2007). The others are 2025: Scenarios of U.S. and Global Society Reshaped by Science and Technology (Oakhill Press, 1997), Future Work: Seven Critical Forces Reshaping Work and the Workforce in North America (Jossey-Bass, 1990); What Futurists Believe (World Future Society, 1989); and Issues Management: How Can You Plan, Organize, and Manage for the Future (Lomond, 1986). He is the author of over 300 articles, chapters, papers, and other publications. He is responsible for more than 200 proprietary studies for clients. He is or has been on the editorial boards of eleven journals. A former adjunct professor at The George Washington University, for 20 years he taught graduate courses on technology and on the future.

Before starting his own company, he was assistant to the director and head of exploratory research at the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment. Earlier at the National Science Foundation, he was a program manager of the Program of Research Applied to National Needs. Even earlier he was on the staff of the Institute for Defense Analyses. His first career was as an industrial chemist. He holds 19 patents. He was educated at Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute, Pennsylvania State University, and the University of Pennsylvania. He holds an Honorary Doctorate, 1985, from Claremont Graduate School. For further information, visit his web site at

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