The World Futures Society reports that Olaf Helmer, a pioneer of futures and co-founder of Institute for the Future, has died.
A mathematician who helped bring scientific rigor to speculation about the future, Olaf Helmer died in Oak Harbor, Washington, on April 14, less than two months from his 101st birthday.
Helmer (ranked number 37 on the Encyclopedia of the Future’s list of the world's 100 most influential futurists) is best known as the co-inventor of the Delphi forecasting methodology — the systematic polling of experts in multiple rounds to create an authoritative consensus about some aspect of the future.
He was a "legendary futurist," notes Paul Saffo, president of the Institute for the Future, which Helmer co-founded after departing the RAND Corporation in 1968.
It was important, Helmer believed, to use this new methodology for the public good and not exclusively for military strategy. Many of Helmer's early papers on Delphi polling and other futures work are available at RAND.
When I was at IFTF there was a picture of Helmer near the main entrance, so I passed by him almost daily; he had left the Institute long before I arrived, though, so I never met him. However, his work helped set the agenda for the field, and his interest in futures methods and the future of science sound eerily like my own.