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State of the Future 19.1

March 21, 2018

In his second blog on the work of the Millennium Project, Tony Diggle looks at their latest “State of the Future” report.

Published at the end of last year, this report is the nineteenth in a series of reports (originally annual and subsequently biennial) produced by the Millennium Project, a voluntary think tank of futurists, scholars, scientists, business planners and policymakers worldwide. It is intended to provide an overview of the global strategic landscape, a context for understanding global issues, opportunities and foreseeable prospects, and offers a systematic framework for understanding global change. It is aimed at thought leaders, decision-makers and interested parties generally. The Project’s diversity of opinion and global views is ensured by its sixty-three nodes around the world in all continents.

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The heart of the report is a description of fifteen interdependent global challenges and actions to address them: these are transnational in nature and trans-institutional in solution. The challenges listed are as follows:

  1. Sustainable Development and Climate Change
  2. Water and Sanitation
  3. Population and Resources
  4. Democratization
  5. Global Foresight and Decision-Making
  6. Global Convergence of ICT
  7. Rich-Poor Gap
  8. Health Issues
  9. Education and Learning
  10. Peace and Conflict
  11. Status of Women
  12. Transnational Organised Crime
  13. Energy
  14. Science and Technology
  15. Global Ethics

The report finds that the world overall is expected to continue to improve over the next ten years. For example, extreme poverty has fallen from 51% in 1981 to 13% in 2012 and less than 10% currently. On the other hand environmental conditions, armed conflicts, terrorism and organised crime are getting worse. Distinctions between the last three have begun to blur increasing threats to democracies, development and security. Technological developments are expected to lead to a “fourth industrial revolution” making use of artificial intelligence, but as the developing world grows, water consumption per capita will increase giving rise to the possibility of serious water crises and migrations.

The body of the report dealing with the fifteen challenges individually is shorter and punchier than in previous years, but can still come across at times as a rather bland “statement of the case” with a wish list of solutions attached. But since the Millennium Project has been rated as among the top think tanks in the world for “new ideas and paradigms”, perhaps this should be seen as a virtue.

Naturally one challenge of particular interest to futurists is the fifth one, which addresses the problem of global governance systems not keeping up with global interdependence. A general long-term view of the future with long range goals is needed, and this requires a means of linking research and development agendas to such goals. National foresight and decision-making can be improved. Recommended actions include: establishing permanent Parliamentary Committees for the Future (as Finland has done), establishing or improving future strategy units for heads of state and in government and linking these government units with strategy units in other appropriate institutions to improve international strategic coherence and co-ordination.

A supplementary section deals with some other recent work done by the Millennium Project. It has run a number of country workshops to explore the future of work and technology to 2050. The underlying theme that has emerged is that work will increasingly be rendered unnecessary or taken over by technological developments, and some sort of universal basic income will need to be generated. In the most optimistic scenario, men and women will be freed from the necessity of having a job and instead achieve self-respect in the “self-actualising” economy.

The report concludes that there is a greater consensus about the global situation as expressed in these challenges and the actions to address them than is evident in the news media. It boldly asserts that slowly but surely, a globally oriented planetary stewardship consciousness is emerging. Yet it also warns that the world is in a race between implementing ever-increasing ways to improve the human condition and the seemingly ever-increasing complexity and scale of global problems.

Given its contribution to the work on the threat from terrorism discussed at length in the preceding SAMI blog, and also reported in summary in this report, this is not a caution to be treated lightly.

More information on the Millennium Project is available from their website www.millennium-project.org.

“State of the Future 19.1” is available as a paperback and as a download from http://www.millennium-project.org/state-of-the-future-version-19-1/.

Written by Tony Diggle, SAMI Associate and member of the UK Node of the Millennium Project. He writes in a personal capacity.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily of SAMI Consulting.

If you enjoyed this blog from SAMI Consulting, the home of scenario planning, please sign up for our monthly newsletter at eSAMIsignup@samiconsulting.co.uk and/or browse our website at http://www.samiconsulting.co.uk

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