Foresight Resources for the Crisis in Ukraine
As Russia’s war in Ukraine enters a second month, futurists have offered foresight resources including scenarios, causal-layered analysis, and a potential outcome map and source links:
∎ “Ukraine/Russia Crisis: Sunflower-led, Global Paradigm Change!” is Shaping Tomorrow’s continuously updated report compiled by the firm’s robot, Athena, and incorporating Causal-Layered Analysis from futurist scholar Sohail Inayatullah. The scenarios outlined are
- New Normal: “A Bifurcated World.” Russia becomes an almost global pariah as business, investment, travel is shunned.
- Growth: “Security Rules!” Security innovation accelerates, including militarization of space.
- Transformation: “Geopolitical Darwinism.” Russia defeated; NATO becomes more offensive; oligarchs’ assets sold to rebuild Ukraine.
- Collapse: “Hell in a handbasket.” Global food crisis; cyberattacks on vital systems; more former Soviet countries invaded.
∎ “Four simple alternative futures” outlined by Inayatullah and Ivana Milojevic with succinct metaphors are
- World War III, “Everything goes hot”
- The new Marshall Plan, “Russia comes in from the cold”
- Conflict contained to Ukraine, “Long and slow decay”
- Conflict transformation, “Gaia needs Laws.”
∎ “War in Ukraine: Economic Effects” is an outcome map drawn by Foresight Alliance partner and founder Josh Calder, with extensive sources included. Among the possible effects to consider are agricultural disruptions leading to higher food prices, resulting in instability in many poorer countries.
Trends for Government and Society
The U.S. Government Accountability Office has released its latest report on trends affecting government and society. The report is updated every four years, with input from its Center for Strategic Foresight, as a strategic plan for lawmakers. The dozen key trends identified in the current report are:
- National security threats, such as a rise in violent extremism tied to conspiracy theories and misinformation.
- The increasing federal debt, which makes a fiscal crisis more likely.
- Potentially catastrophic biological incidents, including the need for a more resilient medical supply chain.
- Racial and ethnic disparities in society, from housing and health to access to voting.
- Declining public investment in science and technology R&D.
- Society’s increasing reliance on digital technology and potential vulnerability to cybercrime and other security issues.
- Changes to the U.S. workforce due to new technologies.
- Disruptions to the global supply chain due to the pandemic, trade war, and other global crises.
- Opportunities and challenges from increased use of online learning and technology in education.
- Evolving health technologies such as artificial intelligence, which could yield efficiencies but raise privacy concerns.
- Ensuring availability of critical natural resources amid an increasingly stressed environment.
- Increasing use of space for national security, commercial, and human exploration.
View report’s introductory video here
Read “Trends Affecting Government and Society: GAO Strategic Plan 2022-2027” (March 15, 2022)
Report: Americans Are Cautious About AI, Human Enhancement
Americans are concerned about the implications of advances in artificial intelligence and human enhancement technologies, according to a new report from Pew Research Center. However, Americans' views are largely tied to how the technologies would be used and to what constraints would be in place.
Facial recognition by law enforcement, driverless passenger vehicles, and gene editing were among the technologies Pew explored in a survey last November of 10,260 U.S. adults. More respondents viewed facial recognition positively when it is used to reduce crime, but more saw driverless cars as a bad rather than a good idea. And many expressed doubt that human enhancement technologies will make life better and that they lead to greater social inequality.
“A new era is emerging that Americans believe should have higher standards for assessing the safety of emerging technologies,” the report notes.
Read “AI and Human Enhancement: Americans’ Openness Is Tempered by a Range of Concerns” by Lee Rainie, Cary Funk, Monica Anderson, and Alec Tyson. Pew Research Center (March 2022).
News and Moves in the Field
- Openings remain for the University of Houston’s virtual Professional Certificate in Foresight program beginning April 6, advises director Andy Hines. The program serves as a “boot camp” to immerse participants in the fundamentals of foresight work. The virtual seminars meet five consecutive Wednesday mornings, ending May 4. The virtual program will also be offered August 3–31 and October 5–November 2. [Learn more]
- The Association of Professional Futurists announced on social media that it has appointed Steve Tighe, director of Chasing Sunrises, to the APF board of directors. Tighe, author of Rethinking Strategy (Wiley, 2019), is the former foresight manager at global brewer Foster’s, has a master’s degree in Strategic Foresight from Swinburne University, and has completed the Oxford Scenarios Programme. [Learn more]
- Zimbabwe has become the 71st node of The Millennium Project (TMP). Launched officially during TMP’s March 1 World Futures Day global conversation, the new node is chaired by Simbarashe Nhokovedzo, a lecturer at the Harare Institute of Technology. [Read more]
- TechCast Project founder Bill Halal has contributed recent commentaries for Fortune and CEO World magazines. “While it is marvelous to see business being redefined as stakeholder capitalism, the use of ‘capitalism’ is inaccurate, confusing, and doesn’t live up to the historic transformation underway,” he wrote in “The ‘Democratic Enterprise’ Will Redefine Our Society” for Fortune (online March 9). “It conflates markets with capitalism.” For CEO World (February 18), Halal reflected on “How to Tame the Social Media Monster.”
Recipes for Futures Literacy
What would you give the world as a birthday present? How precisely do you follow a recipe? How might you think outside the box when facing a wicked problem? Looking back, what futures did you think would have been here by now?
These are a few “recipes” to help encourage innovative thinking among teams, drawn from a forthcoming Futures Literacy Cookbook for Sustainability Innovators. The work derives from exercises tested by the University of Turku’s FLxDeep consortium, supported by the EU’s EIT Climate-KIC in 2020.
“Developing futures literacy with other people requires experimentation, patience, and continual ‘learning by doing,’” write Nicolas A. Balcom Raleigh (UNESCO Chair in Learning for Transformation & Planetary Futures) and Martyn Richards (futures literacy specialist). “These experiences offer opportunities to practice intentionally varying your modes and purposes of imagining futures.”
Read “12 Tasty Futures Literacy Recipes for Sustainability Innovators” by Nicolas A. Balcom Raleigh and Martyn Richards (March 15, 2022).
In Memoriam: Stanley M. Davis
Futurist, management consultant, and author Stan Davis died March 5 at his home in Brookline, Massachusetts. A literally towering figure (6 feet, 7 inches, he reported in his 2011 memoir Tall Tales), he taught at Harvard Business School, Columbia Business School, and Boston University before leaving academia to consult, lecture, and write.
Davis was best known for books such as Future Perfect (1987), which Wired magazine described as “a visionary—indeed, downright strange—manifesto of permanent economic revolution” featuring any time, any place products and services and mass customization. Other notable works include Blur: The Speed of Change in the Connected Economy (1998), 2020 Vision (1992) co-authored with Bill Davidson, and Lessons from the Future (2001). [Read more]
“If history moves like a locomotive, in a single direction, today’s trends will become tomorrow’s reality. But if the human desire for change causes history’s course to swing back and forth like a pendulum, a reversal can be expected.”
—Madeleine K. Albright (1937–2022), “The Coming Democratic Revival,” Foreign Affairs (November-December 2021)