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. …
Google has reportedly achieved the famous Quantum Supremacy, as the Financial Times first reported on 20 September 2019.
Despite heated discussions regarding the validity of the claim (e.g. Hacker News), this reminds us that a world with quantum computers is about to be born. All actors need to take this new future into account, in all its dimensions. This is even truer for those concerned with international security at large.
This new series focuses on understanding the coming quantum-AI world. How will this future world look like? What will be the impacts on geopolitics and international security? When will these changes take place…
Foreseeing the future, whatever the name given to the endeavour, includes two major tasks.
The first one is, of course, the analysis, the process according to which the foresight, forecast, warning, or, more broadly, anticipation is obtained.
The second one is less obvious, or rather so evident that it may be overlooked. It is, however, no less vital than analysis. We need to deliver the output of the analytical process to those who need the foresight, the decision-makers or policy-makers. Ideally, the recipients must understand that output, because they will act on it. They need to integrate the new knowledge received in the decisions they will take.*
A huge challenge runs across these tasks: biases.
We must overcome the various natural and constructed biases – systematic mental errors – that limit human understanding. This article will present first the classical way we deal with biases: we consider them – quite rightly – as “enemies” and we devote much effort to mitigate them. Then, considering the specificity of the delivery stage, this article suggests that another strategy is necessary. We need to turn our usual strategy on its head and befriend biases. In that case, scenarios become a tool of choice for an enhanced delivery of our foresight to decision-makers […]
Each week our scan collects weak – and less weak – signals… We present below some of the most interesting or relevant features for each section. World (all matters related to war, international and national security) – An interesting statement by the US Army Chief of Staff sums up well the current situation for many countries: “I need more …
While a violent battle to win the minds through information, misinformation, manipulation, and deception is at work around Syria, the international order is changing out of the interactions between players. Will the post-1945 order prove resilient enough or are we heading towards a system that will look more like a 19th century Europe, or shall …
The evaluation of our 2012 predictions’ sample underlines notably a widespread conventional view of national security, novel issues being ignored; a relative inability to assess timing whilst our understanding of issues fares relatively well; the existence of major biases, notably regarding China, Russia, and the U.S; the difficulty of prediction for novel issues and old issues in new context.
This second article on The Black Swan: the impact of the highly improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb emphasises some of the author’s points that are crucial for foresight and warning. Likewise, they are necessary for any work dealing with the future and its anticipation, from risk management to horizon scanning through early warning.
The methodology of SF&W and risk management allows addressing these points. They should become rules and principles all analysts follow. Indeed, without paying attention to them, good analysis is impossible. The first article on The Black Swan can be accessed here.
(Notably pp.190-200) Considering uncertainty, but also our imperfect condition of human beings, the complexity of the social world, feedbacks, our more than insufficient knowledge and understanding, we must ….
Since Nassim Nicholas Taleb published his bestseller The Black Swan: the impact of the highly improbable back in 2007, “Black Swans” and “Black Swans events” have become part of everyday language.
They are used as a catchphrase to mean two different things. First, as was the case in the Brookings interesting interactive “briefing book” Big Bets and Black Swans: Foreign Policy Challenges for President Obama’s Second Term, “black swans” represent high impact, low probability events, what is also known as wild cards.[i]
Second, “black swans” refer to events that could absolutely not be predicted, as, for example for the Economist in ”The prediction games: Our winners and losers from last year’s edition”. Unfortunately, in this case, the label “black swans” excuses foresight errors. It tends to stop explanations and evaluation. Similarly, some will make statements along the line of “oh, but there is no point to do any foresight (or futures work or forecast), did you not read Taleb’s Black Swan? One cannot predict or foresee anything.”
This is a rather bold statement, especially when one seeks to anticipate uncertainty and to foresee and warn. We thus need to explore the unpredictability claim further.
Horizon Scanning for National Security No83: Towards a multiplication of increasingly fragile states? This is what could mean the report on the state of infrastructures in the U.S. (and probably other so called rich countries?). It is a crucial weak signal that could trump all others: imagine weak, increasingly fragile “rich countries” on the backdrop of all the other tensions and threats…