Creating scenarios about the future is very often based on some kind of matrix model with two axes, each of them representing two outcomes, i.e. climate change vs. no climate change and more middle class consumers vs. less middle class consumers.

It is a very useful model in a stable world and it is great for getting people to see new perspectives. But it only truly works when the surrounding environment stays predictable. If we look into the effect of climate change on consumer behavior through this model, we assume, say, the welfare state and the current tax system as constants.

But what happens to government spending and the concept of the middle class, when every person on the planet within the next 10-20 years participates in one global job market? How do we tax that? Who has the rights to social benefits where? Who is then the middle class of what? And if we add migration due to climate change to that picture, what - if anything - can we predict with such a matrix?

A nice, old model which simply isn't complex enough.

“Ceteris paribus” just died

Except for the deeper patterns in the various areas of deveopment there are no constants in the world anymore. Only processes can be considered stable. This is an entirely new way of thinking and not only do we need to understand it, we also have to be able to apply it.

A concrete example concerns the emergence of the BINC technologies: the global economy is completely restructuring itself at the moment due to their develpment, but there are some clear patterns behind this development and the restructuring and once we understand them and can localize them we can also apply political measures to counter-act or go along with them, and as commercial entities or NGO's we can maneuver safely along with them.

This is very complex, and the main point here is that the models we use to say anything about the future must match the complexity of the future they are supposed to predict.

The future scenarios developed by Next Scandinavia are based on several fields of knowledge covering different kinds of patterns and processes.

Scale free networks is one of the patterns that repeats themselves almost everywhere. They are found in biology, economy, human relations, global power structures, the metabolism of the cells in our bodies, and in the way the internet has evolved. Understand the scale free networks and you have a powerful tool to predict future hubs of power and much more.

What Next Scandinavia does

Our predicting the future has five components:

  • knowledge about the patterns of the past
  • research into the field for which we want a scenario about the future
  • imagination to combine the patterns and the research
  • the guts to extrapolate some or all of the patterns out into the future and apply the research to them
  • substracting a more or less detailed scenario concerning the specific question or field of interest

This is by no means an exact science but more like an artform. Especially if one defines art as an expression of the intuitions and premonitions for which we do not have a language yet.

Others call it pre-science: this is the thinking that is needed in order for us to find out what we need to find out. It cannot be peer-reviewed, but it can be based on peer-reviewed knowledge, it can be scrutinized and discussed, and first and foremost can it be of great inspiration to see patterns, threats and possibilities that might otherwise have gone unnoticed.

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