This is the 13 January 2022 issue of our weekly scan for political and geopolitical risks or, more largely, conventional and unconventional national and international security (open access). Scroll down to access the scan.

Editorial: As featured article, a piece by Pr Thomas Homer Dixon, where he considers as serious the possibility that “the U.S. could descend into civil war” by 2025. This is of course not a fatality but a possibility, however an increasingly more likely one.

We do agree, and have put the issue under watch for a couple of years now. To the mainly domestic concerns Dixon highlights, we would add first the way the U.S. mismanages the COVID19 pandemic with more cumulated deaths than for any of the wars into which it has been involved (see The Fifth Wave of the COVID-19 Pandemic and Lethality) knowing that for 12 January 2022 the figure stands at 844.562 deaths. The U.S. also fares much worse in terms of cumulated deaths relative to population – 2536.8 per million – than other high income countries.

We then have a profound weakening stemming from multiple environment stress, besides America’s relentless pursuit of supremacy, its hardly hidden lack of concern for its allies and its willingness to create two large enemies at once as some of the factors of fragility. Note that wanting to escalate a situation with perceived enemies when one has a population that is dying more than elsewhere and also more fragile because of a pandemic and uncontrolled contamination is a recipe for disaster.

Also, look at the section “Analysis, Strategy and Futures” for some famous “predictions” about the future for 2022. Don’t forget though that many of them are actually surveys on sentiments about the future. They thus tell you what most people think, fear or hope about the future. The only credentials of these “predictions” are the status of those who thus share opinions. These are not proper foresight work. However, because actors’ perceptions also inform actions and, as a result, the future, these beliefs about the future may have an impact, to a point. The point is when surprise and disaster strike.

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.

The 13 January 2022 scan→

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 AI, QIS, technology and weapons, ;
  • analysis, strategy and futures;
  • the Covid-19 pandemic;
  • 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: Image of the Swedish-ESO 15m Submillimeter Telescope (SEST) at ESO’s La Silla Observatory, located on the outskirts of the Chilean Atacama Desert, 600 km north of Santiago de Chile and at an altitude of 2400 metres. The photo was taken by Stefan Seip, one of the ESO Photo Ambassadors.

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.

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