(Credit Image: ESO/P. Horálek)

This is the 9 January 2020 issue of our weekly scan for geopolitical risks (open access).

Editorial Unable to see the (burning) forest for the trees: This week, the social network sphere is abuzz with tension between the U.S. and Iran. It also highlights the continuous loss of power and influence of Europe. Yet, we voluntarily choose to rather put on top of our watch list the fires in Australia. The general globalised complacency regarding this absolutely tragic situation is appalling. We thus have twin signals here: the fires and a human age unable to see, hear, act.

Yet, the possible impacts, known and unknown, direct and indirect, of fires and drought at continental level for such a relatively long period of time demand scrutiny.

If you want to think about war, then start thinking about war as climate change unfolds… If you want to think about digitisation, big data, AI, or quantum science, or profits or fun or whatever, then start thinking about them as climate change unfolds unrelentingly.

The fires are also a warning signal about what may – or rather will – beset humanity and current living species in the years to come. And this is not only about the next generation, your children or grand children. This is happening now. Denial and passivity are starting to verge on stupidity. It is a shame the newly discovered first potentially habitable planet is 100 light-years away. Even billionaires and powerful CEOs with all their money won’t be able to escape and take refuge there.

This week’s scan is ready…

The 9 January 2019 scan→

Using horizon scanning, each week, we collect weak – and less weak – signals. These point to new, emerging, escalating or stabilising problems. As a result, they indicate how trends or dynamics evolve.

Here, we focus on signals that could favourably or unfavourably impact private and public actors in international security. That field is broadly known under various names: e.g. global changes, national and international security, or political and geopolitical uncertainty. In terms of risk management, the label used is external risks.

Horizon scanning, weak signals and biases

We call signals weak, because it is still difficult to discern them among a vast array of events. However, our biases often alter our capacity to measure the strength of the signal. As a result, the perception of strength will vary according to the awareness of the actor. At worst, biases may be so strong that they completely block the very identification of the signal.

In the field of strategic foresight and warning, risk management and future studies, it is the job of good analysts to scan the horizon. As a result, they can perceive signals. Analysts then evaluate the strength of these signals according to specific risks and dynamics. Finally, they deliver their findings to users. These users can be other analysts, officers or decision-makers.

You can read a more detailed explanation in one of our cornerstone articles: Horizon Scanning and Monitoring for Warning: Definition and Practice.

The sections of the scan

Each section of the scan focuses on signals related to a specific theme:

  • world (international politics and geopolitics);
  • economy;
  • science including Quantum Information Science, ;
  • analysis, strategy and futures;
  • AI, technology and weapons;
  • energy and environment.

However, in a complex world, categories are merely a convenient way to present information, when facts and events interact across boundaries.

The information collected (crowdsourced) does not mean endorsement.

Featured image: Milky Way above SPECULOOS / The Search for habitable Planets – EClipsing ULtra-cOOl Stars (SPECULOOS) is searching for Earth-like planets around tiny, dim stars in front of a panorama of the Milky Way. Credit: ESO/P. Horálek.

Published by Dr Helene Lavoix (MSc PhD Lond)

Dr Helene Lavoix, PhD Lond (International Relations), is the President/CEO of The Red Team Analysis Society. She is specialised in strategic foresight and warning for international relations, national and international security issues. Her current focus is on the war in Ukraine, international order and the rise of China, the overstepping of planetary boundaries and international relations, the methodology of SF&W, radicalisation as well as new tech and security.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.