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scenarios for 2025

November 9, 2012

A new set of scenarios from the Challenge Forum “discuss the period to 2025. They assess the deep uncertainty that is paralysing decision-taking. They identify the roots of this as the failure of the social model on which the West has operated since the 1920s. Related and pending problems imply that this situation is not recoverable without major change: for example, pensions shortfalls are greater in real terms that entire expenditure on World War II, and health care and age support will treble that. Due to the prolonged recession, competition will impact complex industries earlier than expected. Social responses which seek job protection, the maintenance of welfare and also support in old age will tear at the social fabric of the industrial world. There are ways to meet this, implying a major change in approach, and a characteristic way in which to fail to respond to it in time, creating a dangerous and unstable world. The need for such change will alter the social and commercial environment very considerably. The absence of such change will alter it even more”. More can be found on http://www.chforum.org/scenario2012/paper-4-6.shtml. A similar train of thought was the subject of the recent Wincott Foundation lecture by Professor Raghuran Rajan, the slides of this are on http://www.wincott.co.uk/lectures/2012.html

This uncertainty is affecting areas that previously have been forecastable, such as demographics. Historically, apart from major epidemics, population has been forecastable from fertility rates and mortality statistics. A recent Financial Times article pointed out that studies across many countries and cultures show a correlation between women’s education and fertility rates. For instance in Indian state of Kerala, where girls generally go to school, women have on average 1.7 children vs 4 or more in other parts of India. This means that in order to estimate the population in 2050, significant changes in fertility rates need to be forecast. At the same time, people are living longer . So far this is mostly due to better public health and survival of disabled babies. However, there have been game changing advances in treating one major cause of death, heart disease – if there are break throughs in cures for other killer diseases, longevity could shoot up by several years. This uncertainty at both ends of the demographic calculation mean that the UN’s forecasts for global population are for 9 billion with a low scenario of around 7 billion and a high scenario around 11 billion. Since population drives so many other global variables, this is a very pressing cause of uncertainty. The graph can be found in the report “In Safe Hands?” on http://www.samiconsulting.co.uk.
SAMI Associate Chris Yapp has meanwhile been blogging on three separate blogs – on Long Finance http://www.longfinance.net, on futures of ICT on http://www.bcs.org/content/ConBlog/20, and on education on http://www.nationaleducationtrust.net/ShapingIdeasShapingLives124.php – he is also working on an exciting new project that SAMI is undertaking, funded by the Technology Strategy Board, on “Bite sized business content across PCs, laptops and phones”. The project will complete next summer.

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