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  • Richard Bonetti

Global Futures Signals of Change

Updated: Aug 25


Futurists look for clues about emerging trends and use "signals of change" as concrete examples how the world could one day be different. "Strangesight" leads to foresight, which is translated into alternative scenarios. One tip in finding futures clues is to google search "future of..." Several institutions also identify global trends.


The World Economic Forum publishes an annual Global Risks Report. The 17th edition, 2022 Insight Report has the following key findings:

  • A divergent economic recovery threatens collaboration on global challenges.

  • A disorderly climate transition will exacerbate inequalities.

  • Growing digital dependency will intensify cyberthreats.

  • Barriers to mobility risk compounding global insecurity.

  • Opportunities in space could be constrained by frictions.

  • Year two of the pandemic yields insights on resilience.

Only 3.7% of us feel "optimistic" about the outlook for the world with another 12.1% "positive." Most (84%) are concerned or worried because of the turbulent global context.


The 10 most severe risks on a global scale over the next 10 years, are in decending order:

  1. Climate action failure

  2. Extreme weather

  3. Biodiversity loss

  4. Social cohesion erosion

  5. Livelihood crises

  6. Infectious diseases

  7. Human environmental damage

  8. Natural resource crises

  9. Debt crises

  10. Geoeconomic confrontation

 

Another good source of futures analysis is the U.S. National Intelligence Council's Global Trends 2040: A More Contested World. The report is published every four years so the 7th edition assesses the key trends and uncertainties that will shape the strategic environment for the United States during the next two decades.


They examine structural forces in demographics, environment, economics, and technology that shape the contours of our future world. Analyze how these structural forces and other factors - combined with human responses - affect emerging dynamics in societies, states, and the international system. Finally they envision five plausible scenarios for the distant future in 2040. The Covid-19 pandemic and corresponding national responses "appear to be honing and accelerating several trends that were already underway before the outbreak".


The key themes of Global Trends 2040 are:

  • Catalyzing Economic Trends

  • Reinforcing Nationalism and Polarization

  • Deepening Inequality.

  • Straining Governance

  • Highlighting Failed International Cooperation

  • Elevating the Role of Nonstate Actors.

The five plausible scenarios for 2040 are:

  1. Renaissance and Democracies

  2. A World Adrift

  3. Competitive Co-existence

  4. Separate Silos

  5. Tragedy and Mobilization

 

While it is necessary to directly and unflinchingly face the reality of the above threats, ;there are also signals of hope and a positive future. Futurist Jan McGonigal offers 10 future forces that could make a better world in the next decade in her book Imaginable.:

  1. mRNA vaccines

  2. Super-inexpensive solar and wind energy

  3. Prioritization of social safety nets over economic growth

  4. Bio-printing technology

  5. Living concrete

  6. Direct cash transfers

  7. Cultured meat

  8. Efforts to combat social isolation

  9. Free or low-cost learning for a lifetime

  10. Anti-aging bio-tech

Which of these possibilities make you feel hopeful for the future?


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