Global Foresight 2033

Alexandra Whittington is a fellow Futurist that recently participated in the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security survey of the future. The survey asked leading global strategists and foresight practitioners around the world to answer burning questions about the biggest drivers of change over the next ten years. Over 160 experts participated in a survey that covered the following:

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The Future-Facing CFO

I recently participated in a CFO and Board retreat hosted by the Criticaleye peer-to-peer Board Community. I opened the session with a keynote and a Q&A session. Dialog from the session was captured in an article that was recently launched. The key points include:

  • One of the critical skillsets of a future-facing CFO is an ability to unlearn
  • Foresight means nothing if it can’t inform strategies
  • The job of leaders is to envision possible futures
  • It’s never been more important to take the future seriously in terms of the speed at which its coming towards us

It is encouraging the see the emphasis placed on understanding possible futures. That appreciation was ramping pre-pandemic and has accelerated since.

Strategic Foresight

I believe an appreciation for a future that is arriving faster than most people think is settling in. One clear signal is the growing discussion around foresight. As a very different future emerges, this growing focus is good news – as there is a critical need to envision possible futures. Foresight executives like Joanna Lepore are leading the way. Joanna joined an episode of Future Hacker to discuss strategic foresight. I highly recommend this episode. Here is the episode abstract.

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Agile Leadership

Steve Denning knows a thing or two about management. In a recent article, he talks about the baggage of agile and the critical need to reinvent the very concept of management. He identifies the practices of industrial-era management and labels them as “obsolete”. He goes as far as to say those practices constitute a disease that must be eradicated. In a post-pandemic world, resilience is the new buzzword. Our uncertain times dictated a focus on adaptability years ago – yet it took a pandemic to bring it into leadership consciousness. Eradicating the disease of industrial-era management is therefore long overdue.

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Exploring Possible Economic Futures

In the interest of exploring possible economic futures, I have read books on Modern Monetary Theory, Zero Marginal Cost, The Job Guarantee, and several others. Add to the list the most recent book I finished, How Capitalism Ends. Viewed through the lens of property rights, wealth, and the transition from Feudalism to Capitalism, author Steve Paxton uses an effective method of storytelling: start with history and then explore possible futures. The book is setup by two thesis: the development and the primacy thesis. What he describes helps us understand the “why” behind the future that is emerging.

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Prediction Versus Foresight

A colleague recently shared this visual produced by the Disruptive Futures Institute. The visual does a great job of describing the difference between prediction and foresight. The Disruptive Futures Institute is a Think Tank offering education, research, and thought leadership on adapting to our increasingly complex and uncertain world. I believe this uncertain world puts a premium on rehearsing possible futures. As depicted in the visual, the need to rehearse versus predict emanates from an environment of multiple unknowns and broad possibilities. This environment is characterized by the sheer number of existing and emerging building blocks that are converging across domains.

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What Do Patents Tell Us About AI In 2023?

Foresight is all about signals and they come from various sources. History provides us with an incredible number of signals, with other sources including venture data, market research, academia, analysts, think tanks, and experimentation. One critical source of foresight is patents. This recent article provides an example of patent data as a source of foresight – in this case, focused on artificial intelligence (AI).

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Scenario Planning Thoughts From Futurist Peter Schwartz

Are you curious, imaginative, and collaborative? If so, you have what it takes to be a scenario planner. This brilliant video via Peter Schwartz is a must see.

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Living In Uncertain Times

The title of an upcoming presentation I will deliver next week is “Adapting to Uncertainty.” It should be very clear by now that we live in extremely uncertain times. I maintain that the world has not been this uncertain since a series of twentieth century catalysts established our modern day. The reason lies in the similarities between our current times and that period decades ago. The world back then experienced uncertainty across multiple domains: science, technology, society, geopolitics, economics, and business. The breadth of change occurring across those domains made the period one of the most turbulent in human history. The uncertainty of our current world did not just emerge, it has been years in the making. As it did in that earlier period, the convergence of multiple forces created the current environment. In studying those forces, our ability to adapt became a central tenet of my thinking, alongside seeing the future and continually rehearsing it.

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The Final Stages Of The Fourth Turning

It was 2019 when I finished a book titled The Fourth Turning. I found myself referring to it a couple of weeks ago during a conversation about the cycles of history. I went back to the book after our discussion given the many changes the world experienced since I added it to my library. The repeated cycles of history described by the book remain both fascinating and ominous.

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Solving Humanities Greatest Challenges

Every so often, the knowledge base of society expands in a way that can be felt across multiple domains. When science pushed technology to new heights starting in the 1870s, it put society on a path towards transformative change. With science continuing to produce amazing breakthroughs in a synergistic relationship with technology, it feels much like that period so long ago. Take a look at the headlines from the past week:

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Deglobalization

Deglobalization is a geopolitical building block with massive implications as it converges with its societal counterparts. In my August 2020 poll on the catalysts that drive change, deglobalization entered the list. It was not surprising, given the supply chain concerns that emerged in the early days of the pandemic. But is deglobalization likely? This recent article explores that question.

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A Shift In Economic Power

This visual from visual capitalist looks at global economies between now and 2036. It tracks the shift in economic power across the years, dating back to 2006. This article provides color commentary. Below the visual is a chart projecting the top ten economies in 2031. The economic domain is one of our convergence areas, with the changing economic landscape contributing to our uncertain environment. In rehearsing the future, this domain is a critical area of focus. What are the implications to the future if the visual accurately depicts economic power shifts?

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The Future Of Autonomous Driving And Logistics

Uber Freight and Waymo Via just announced a long-term strategic partnership to connect their technologies and deploy autonomous trucks at scale on the Uber Freight network. According to the announcement, carriers that purchase trucks equipped with the Waymo Driver in the future will be able to opt-in to Uber Freight’s marketplace to seamlessly deploy their autonomous assets on the Uber Freight network. This announcement informs two often asked about possible futures: autonomous driving and logistics.

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An Endless Possibility Space

In times of significant change, society has followed two distinct paths that represent the Opposing Forces of Innovation. This subway diagram focuses on these two paths: one that enhances human development (green), and one that diminishes it (red). The station stops are the major impacted domains in either direction – but we could add several other stations based on the number of Building Blocks available to society. Click on the visual to expand it.

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What Role Did Geography Play In The Past – And What Does It Mean For The Future?

Another recent article explores the factors that drove civilization success. The article – along with a number of recent books – looks for historical signals that aid in our understanding of the future. In this case, the focus is geography, which the article positions as the reason both individuals and civilizations are the way they are today. If history informs our views of possible futures, then according to the article, geography has influenced history more than any other factor. The author uses Japan as an example.

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Economic Headwinds Highlight Uncertainty Across Multiple Domains

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has lowered its economic predictions for 2022 and beyond. The IMF predicts that global GDP growth will slow from 6.1% in 2021 to 3.6% in 2022 and 2023

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Science and Technology Race Ahead

I recently wrote about innovation being everywhere. This pace of innovation has me believing in a possibility space with the potential to solve many of humanity’s grand historical challenges. As Chunka Mui (Futurist and innovation advisor) said in a recent article, today’s innovators can prosper by building a better tomorrow. Indeed, purpose has become a catalyst for positive change. I encourage you to read his recent article. Chunka described our current world in late 2013 with the release of his book titled The New Killer Apps: How Large Companies Can Out-Innovate Start-Ups.

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The Future Of Mobility

In one of my posts from a recent series titled A Journey through the Looking Glass, I focused on the complexity, uncertainty, and volatility of our current environment. Although this dynamic makes it difficult to envision possible futures, the “Future of” question is a growing focus among leaders around the world. While many themes have emerged, mobility is a common topic of discussion. Current conversations are dominated by electric vehicles, batteries, and charging infrastructure. However, the future of mobility is much bigger than our current focus.

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The Raging 2020s

The signals are coming from every direction. To understand the future, signals illuminate possible paths. As I have written multiple times, history provides a wealth of signals. Looking at similar historical periods provides insight that feeds foresight. A book I recently completed did an incredible job of using history as a source of signals. In The Changing World Order, Ray Dalio explores all the major historical empires, the world order they presided over, and their eventual collapse. In doing so, he points to several signals that are shining bright red. Decision-makers would be wise to understand these signals.

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