Tag Archives: citizens

Touching Hands, detail of the Creation of Adam, Michelangelo Buonaroti, Sixtine Chapel, 1510

Towards Funding?

Between July 2011 and November 2012, Touching Hands, detail of the Creation of Adam, Michelangelo Buonaroti, Sixtine Chapel, 1510Red (team) Analysis has been almost entirely self-funded,* that is besides contributions in kind, as detailed below, for which I am so grateful. This was perfect to start, test interest, explore tools and possible structure of the website.

Disadvantage

However, this also implied delays in writing and publishing, as with the Chronicles of Everstate for example, while some – all – issues could benefit from more analysis. Meanwhile, sometimes, some frustrating issues over web-design took over and slowed the creation of content, whilst others just could not be solved. The reality of life must also be considered and there is only so much one can do without resources, despite the incredible support received from the internet community, from Dreamhost to the teams behind the various platforms and open source software used, notably Gephi, Paper.Li, or more recently Peoplebrowsr, to say nothing of the many plugins and advice provided unknowingly by WordPress.org and its community.

Respecting the freedom of information and knowledge’s ideals

Over the last twelve months 45 740 pages were viewed (and hopefully read) by 13 881 visitors in 136 countries, 26,7% of them returning. If this is to be consolidated and improved, if the current shortcomings just outlined are to be overcome, then it is now time to move towards something more sustainable.

I wish, as much as possible, to keep Red (team) Analysis free, notably because much of Red (team) Analysis benefits from the freedom of information and knowledge on the web – the information gift economy – and would be very different without the wealth of insights shared through Twitter, while the support of followers and friends on all social networks and in reality is priceless. Thus, I have given a lot of thoughts about the way to proceed, trying to find out how to still abide by the free sharing ethos and ideal, while overcoming the related various hurdles and challenges. The breakthrough came somehow thanks to this so interesting article published by Edge, “What is Value? What is Money? A Conversation with Cesar Hidalgo.” The alternative is to rely on funding: micro-funding, crowd-funding and and more classical patronage or angels.

Towards funding

The first step of this transformation is to use Flattr, which is a micro-funding platform. It allows people to reward either a whole website (the button on the first page of the sidebar), or individual posts and pages. The difference with other crowd-funding platforms is that it is based on rewards after posts and pages, or other creative content, has been published. Donations can be as small as 5 cents, and can be shared among all the great content that web users follow and enjoy. Funding then goes to the authors, exactly as when a book is bought.

The following steps will be to look for larger classical funding that would allow Red (team) Analysis to be transformed into a real “think-tank” around the theme of a Strategic Foresight and Warning Office for citizens. This approach should also be of interest to practitioners within and without government, not only in terms of discussions on methodology and tools, but also because it should allow, or more humbly contribute, to make policy-makers and decision-makers more open to some ideas than they would if citizens were not aware and active. Much still needs to be done before this goal can be achieved but “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”** (Lao Tzu)

If such funding is found, then the legal structure of Red (team) Analysis will change to accommodate funders. Yet full independence of analysis will remain. A crowd-funding classical campaign may accompany this part.

Of course, if you have other ideas or suggestions or, if your institution wants to become an angel, I would be most happy to discuss ideas, further potential involvement and funding from angels and institutions. Please contact me.

In the meantime, I’ll do my best to continue writing, but the foremost priority will be given to funding. I shall keep you abreast of developments and, hopefully, shall give you good news.

———-

* The idea for Red (team) Analysis emerged while I was teaching in Singapore – which is not only advanced but also active and forward looking in terms of strategic foresight – and I truly thanks those of my students with whom I discussed it for their suggestions. Regarding The Chronicles of Everstate, the initial steps of the development of the overall dynamic graph has been an element of the research done during an appointment as Visiting Senior Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore between November 2010 and February 2011. I am grateful to the Center of Excellence for National Security (CENS) of RSIS, and to RSIS more generally for allowing me to do so, among my other duties.

Note: Another more accurate translation would be, according to Michael Moncur, “Even the longest journey must begin where you stand.”

Turn_Down_the_heat_2014

Pattern – Higher Global Temperatures, Earlier Impacts and the Shale Fuels Bounty

Turn Down The Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must be AvoidedWe most probably need to get ready for a 2C global temperatures’ increase and its harsh impact on the world relatively rapidly, as a temperatures’ rise of 6C – and above – by the end of the century is increasingly probable. Indeed, interests and current challenges and tensions are most likely to favour shale fuels’ production and policies and adversely affect “green efforts”. Other adverse ecological impacts on global security issues such as water and biodiversity may be enhanced and must be monitored. Citizens’ mobilization on those issues may evolve as trade-offs will be done, and as impacts will be felt.

Analysis

climate change, greenland, melt, World BankOn 18 November, the World Bank published a new report warning about the dire impacts of temperatures rising over 2C or worse over 4C, and admonishes staying below the 2C target.

However, if you remember last week’s news, PricewaterhouseCoopers has published another report that underlines that warming of at least 6C by the end of the century is possible, if the current efforts, or lack thereof, at tackling the problem are not considerably stepped up.

Meanwhile, the IEA has hailed, again last week, what had been discussed for a few months in various energy related fora, a new position for the “United States [that] will overtake Saudi Arabia and Russia as the world’s top oil producer by 2017″, thanks to tight light oil (shale oil) and shale gas.

Despite controversies on the reality of this forecast, it is almost certain that the U.S., as well as all other countries who could see their oil and gas production boosted by use of shale oil and gas will promote this “new” fossil fuel policy, as pointed out in this article:

U.S. the New Saudi Arabia? Peak Oilers Scoff: The U.S. is set to increase oil production so much that it will overtake Saudi Arabia and become the world’s biggest producer by around 2… (by Peter CoyBusinessweek)

The very tense – and increasingly so – international situation and its effect on energy prices, when energy is crucial in terms of defence, notably for power projection, may only enhance the desire to get hold of black gold. Meanwhile, the sovereign debt, financial and economic crises, the related domestic unrest and ongoing polarisation are likely to surround the possibility of new revenues and reduced energy imports with the aura of a miraculous solution.

Oil rises as Israel-Hamas fight continues - BANGKOK (AP): The price of oil rose to nearly $88 a barrel Monday in Asia as the conflict between Israel and Hamas showed no signs… (SFGate)

If we add the lobbying by oil interests and related industries and the currently very powerful position of a financial establishment looking for growth of profits – one pole of the polarization – then the likelihood to see governments ruling over countries with shale deposits “putting oil subsidies into green infrastructure” is close to zero or even nil… unless a miracle happens.

Put oil subsidies into green infrastructure: World Bank – Times LIVE: The initiative was one of several it promoted in releasing its latest report on global warming, “Turn Down the Heat.” World Bank President…

But then, this means that we do have to get ready for the fateful 6C increase or more by the end of the century. This means that the timeline for the increase in temperature is changing and thus that the 2C and then 4C increase will be reached much earlier. We must thus re-evaluate current and near future impacts of climate change without forgetting other ecosystemic effects, such as, for example, the consequences of fracking on water, when water is another global security concern.

However, citizens also mobilize around those issues, as is not lost on the IEA (see last slide).

Light Tight Oil and Unconventional Gas: ‘Golden Rules’ to Stay On-track, INTERNATIONAL ENERGY AGENCY

Thus, shall we see an increased mobilization and tension, or will citizens, too, have to face the difficult choice of issues and problems prioritization? What will result from the trade-offs? How those trade-offs will then evolve as adverse impacts are felt earlier? How will other players, with other interests alter the chessboard?

Reference

The World Bank – Climate Change – Climate Change Report Warns of Dramatically Warmer World This Century

PwC Report States that Global Temperatures will Increase by 6°C by 2100, OilPrice.com.

U.S. to overtake Saudi as top oil producer: IEA, Reuters, Peg Mackey.

U.S. the New Saudi Arabia? Peak Oilers Scoff by Peter Coy, Businessweek

Put oil subsidies into green infrastructure: World Bank – Times LIVE

Oil rises as Israel-Hamas fight continues - BANGKOK (AP), SFGate

Light Tight Oil and Unconventional Gas: ‘Golden Rules’ to Stay On-track (slides), INTERNATIONAL ENERGY AGENCY

Garden_delights-4

2013 – 2018 EVT – Increasing wages: not enough, too late? (Panglossy)

Last weeks’ summary: In 2012 EVT, Everstate (the ideal-type corresponding to our very real countries created to foresee the future of governance and of the modern nation-state) knows a rising dissatisfaction of its population. Alarmed by the rising difficulties and widespread discontent, the governing authorities decide to do something when new elections start, which starts the second scenario, Panglossy. Dependent upon programmes created to face efficiently past challenges, prisoners of entrenched political groupings, the major parties campaign to come back to the order ante. Meanwhile, the polarisation and rise of a new opposition that took place during the election is temporarily frozen by the last hope thus created. The new Everstatan government decides that a return to economic efficiency through growth is the key to the crisis. It chooses and starts implementing specific policies. 

(The reader can click on each picture to see a larger version in a new tab - navigating map of posts is available to ease reading – research note before the references).

The logic underlying what presides to the level of satisfaction of Everstate’s population, or to any population for that matter, does not change according to the decisions of a government. Everstatans will assess the security that their government provides through the lenses of their expectations, of their constructed beliefs, considering all the pressures, present and anticipated, to which they are subjected and that impact, directly or indirectly their lives (for more details, see the whole series of post on 2012 EVT, starting with Rising Discontent).

All those pressures lead people to seek a security that becomes increasingly more difficult to achieve, which implies that the task of governing for any government becomes more complex, more demanding. Besides, the new pressures also directly affect the way to govern, contributing to make the task of governing even more difficult.

Meanwhile, the newly elected Everstatan government chose to focus all its policies on restoring growth, which means, in its eyes, the efficiency of the economy. The increase of the minimal wage, to start with, definitely gives a short breathing time to those Everstatans who are paid through wages.

However, it changes nothing to the anxiety and low-income created by imposed temporary employment and economic short-term employment, or to the fear to be laid off and only find back mini jobs, as is increasingly common in Germany.  It does not either impact this unknown share of the population who finds work only in unpaid jobs, such as the voluntary sector, internship, or the virtual “gift economy,” or in jobs where it is less paid than it should (wage dumping – Der Spiegel 2012).

Considering self-employed and temporary employment, rather than only full-time employment is indeed crucial. The OECD underlined this point in its December 2011 report (see figure below): when self-employed and part-time workers are included in statistics, the inequality rises. It is likely that if unpaid work were considered, inequalities would be even stronger.

OECD - Levels of earnings inequality are much higher when part-timers and self-employed are accounted for

,

As young people are most often in those unfortunate categories, underpaid and under-recognised, their parents, worried, are more inclined to spare than to consume.

Other factors play in favour of cautiousness for Everstatans. The price of oil remains volatile and relatively high and with it the price of electricity. In turn, this has an impact on the general cost of resources, of trade and thus of manufactured goods.Besides, the price of most natural resources is increasing, be it because supply is reduced, because extraction costs increase, because demand rises, or because of a combination of those three factors.

Even more worrying, nothing has changed compared with 2012 EVT as far as food is concerned and food is increasingly expensive.

Real hourly minimum wages OECD countries (top line Estonia) – Online OECD Employment database

Media, concerned scholars, advocacy groups and social networks all relate, document, and monitor the rising price of all resources, and the inevitability of this trend. Thus citizens anticipate more and worse increases.

As the rise of the minimum wage is not as high as the past increase of prices for the products bought most commonly and frequently (which is very different from the inflation indices that include other types of goods bought much less frequently and for which prices decrease, as well as wages), then the new wages only allow to loosen the straitjacket into which Everstatans feel trapped. They do not permit finding back the level of consumption that existed beforehand, even less catching up, and, considering expectations of continuing soaring prices, the feeling of safety that use to exist remains absent. As a result, the expected boost to growth does not take place.

Meanwhile, the strong and rising inequality that has been at work in Everstate as in the other OECD countries (with variations according to countries) since the mid to end of the 1970s, and that went worse with the crisis in Everstate as in many countries will not change, and will only fuel the feeling of relative deprivation and injustice, despite the new government’s efforts.*

International Institute for Labour Studies (IILS), World of Work Report 2012, ILO

As the new Everstatan government has also planned other policies, could those, giving them some time to bear fruits have more favourable impacts? Yet, if more delays are necessary, will Everstatans accept and be able to wait?

To be continued….

——

* Research note:

It is interesting to note that few questioned the rising inequalities not only until the financial and economic crisis but also – and maybe mainly – until food (and resource) prices soared or strongly rose according to cases and thus when the larger mass of citizens became impacted in its everyday life, as suggested by Timothy Harper’s finding in The End of Empire and the Making of Malaya, Cambridge University Press, 2001. Further research should be done on this phenomenon, building upon, for example, work already done such as Marco Lagi, Yavni Bar-Yam, Karla Z. Bertrand, Yaneer Bar-Yam, The Economics of Food Prices and Crises, New England Complex Systems Institute, 2012, but considering all countries, including OECD ones. Harper’s argument is larger than those focusing on food prices and protests.

Although those inequalities were pointed out in some reports on globalisation (including in internal reports of quasi-states organisations and IGOs) and by the initial anti-globalisation movement at the end of the 1990s (notably by ATTAC), it was far from being on the political agenda, outside the aid and cooperation world and, there, was limited to approaches to “the  South” or “the developing world” (see the excellent post by Jay Ulfelder on those outmoded categories). The crisis, with the fear of social unrest, changed this, and, for example, the OECD produced in October 2008 a complete report titled Growing Unequal? Income Distribution and Poverty in OECD Countries, followed by another one in December 2011.

References

Jay Ulfelder, There Are Two Kinds of Countries in the World: _____ and _____, Dart-Throwing Chimp Blog, 25 May 2012.

Eurostat, Unemployment statistics, Data up to March 2012.

Online OECD Employment database.

OECD, Growing Unequal? Income Distribution and Poverty in OECD Countries, October 2008.

Facundo, Alvaredo, Anthony B. Atkinson, Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, The World Top Incomes Database.

FAO, “The April FAO Food Price Index down slightly from March,” World Food Situation, FAO Food Price Index, 03/05/2012.

International Institute for Labour Studies (IILS), World of Work Report 2012 ‘Better Jobs for a Better Economy’, ILO, 2012.

OECD, Divided We Stand: Why Inequality Keeps Rising, December 2011.

The Local, Germany’s News in English, “Low-paid ‘mini-jobs’ on the rise,” 26 Apr 11.

Der Spiegel, “Millions Left Behind in Boom The High Cost of Germany’s Economic Success,” 05/04/2012.

Durden,Tyler  Europe’s Scariest Chart Just Got Scarier-er, Zerohedge, 05/02/2012.

The Red (team) Analysis Weekly No34, 9th February 2012

No34, 9th February 2012

Not if but when? It looks like the small window of opportunity that was trying hard to open regarding Iran is closing, while weak signals are a warning of a revival of the global crisis throughout all countries, with China still cast as potential winner.

Click on the picture below to access No34

Horizon Scanning for National Security

The Red (team) Analysis Weekly No33, 2nd February 2012

No33, 2nd February 2012

Convergence? As an opportunity to see tension appeased with Iran, although not shared by all, appears, as beliefs in financial and economic recovery emerge, convergence of heavy threats could also take place in the background, with now a heavy cyber-security component in terms of ways and means.

Click on the picture below to access No33

The Red (team) Analysis Weekly No32, 26th January 2012

No32, 26th January 2012

Domestic and international tensions are increasingly entwined in a pattern that is not likely to recede soon. Positively, an effort has started to tackle our very outdated models. Meanwhile our chessboard and the frontiers of plausibility are being redrawn to include space and cloaking.

Click on the picture below to access No32

National security Horizon Scanning January 26, 2012

garden of delights by Bosch

2012 EVT: Seeking Security (The Chronicles of Everstate)

Last week’s summaryIn 2012 EVT, in Everstate (the ideal-type corresponding to our very real countries created to foresee the future of the modern nation-state), the population’s discontent increases – and is bound to continue to do so – as a result of various pressures and threats, most of them inevitable, imperfectly identified, and not understood. Indeed, Everstatans feel both directly and indirectly the impact of those pressures, which affect their sense of security and thus generate discontent.

(The reader can click on each picture to see a larger version in a new tab).

Everstatans seek security

Everstatans continue to seek a security that is appearing as increasingly distant and elusive.

They turn to their political authorities, expecting them to deliver this security. Indeed, Everstatans believe that their government, their state (which assists the ruler in its tasks) and their national representatives, being their legitimate political authorities, should ensure their security. This fundamental belief is inscribed in their collective history, not only as a country, but also as part of the human species (Moore, 1978). Furthermore, Everstate is part of the normative order called liberal democracies. Thus, as Everstatans have elected their representatives and their government, they are even surer of their right to be well governed, i.e. to see their security ensured.

However, most of the time, they have forgotten that, as citizens on the one hand and as part of the collective body of the nation on the other, they are also a part of the political authorities. As such, they not only have a role to play but also a duty to assume it. They cannot just sit there and relinquish their power and responsibilities, all the more so that their security is at stake. This forgetfulness is not a specific trait of Everstatans but widely shared with most of their fellow citizens in other representative liberal democracies.

Initially, Everstatans exerted their power in a rather negative and passive way, witness the growing abstention during elections that had been going on for decades and other worrying weak signals of alienation. Now, their grumbling grows louder and is a first still inchoate way to act to make sure their government, their state and their national representatives consider their demands. Furthermore, other actions, more visible, such as strikes and demonstrations – sometimes with some violence - also take place with an increasing frequency while creeping unrest and rising lawlessness settle in some very specific areas.

As all those actions originate from different groups of citizens and take various forms with different purposes, for most observers, including Everstatans, they appear as unrelated, dispersed and thus of no consequence. Worse still for those witnesses, when a protest movement seems to be a bit more constructed – e.g. the Occupy Everstate movement, part of the global Occupy/Indignados movement – it starts with a specific demand, linked to the impacts having generated dissatisfaction, then, when satisfaction is not obtained, the scope of the discontent in terms of content increases, usually giving rise to another supplementary revendication. This leads most to completely discredit the various movements of protest, all the more so that the new very real pressures Everstate has to face are still very imperfectly perceived and measured. Indeed, seen from the surface, the protests are sporadic, actively involve relatively few people, flare up and then recede. However, imperceptibly, overtime, the overall level of tension increases, the number of people likely to be actively involved in protests rises, while the scope of discontent widens.

Wrong answers

As the responses of Everstate’s government, state, and Parliament generate dissatisfaction, it seems that they are increasingly unable to answer the population’s demands, which stem from the real situation, the citizens need for security and the beliefs they hold.

Things are however more complex than a sudden incompetency or, more absurd, malevolence, as some extremist Everstatan conspiracy theorists try to promote.

Everstatan political authorities, indeed, have  to provide a governance that has become progressively more complex and thus difficult Governance implies more tasks, many of them novel. Security must be delivered to citizens  in overall conditions that have changed. The various pressures for survival and military threats as well as their intensity demand attention, resources, policy and successful responses. Meanwhile, the evolution of resources available, as well as their rising complexity, for example all those related to the virtual and mobile world, again ask for fully novel policies and practice.

Logically those new tasks require new staff as well as new resources and income, past ones having become ill-suited, insufficient or even exhausted.

In this framework and because of it, three related phenomena are at work that drive the political authorities’ current incapacity to deliver security and thus  the rising population’s dissatisfaction, while also directly adding to the discontent: a deepening budget deficit and an increasing need for liquidity, a creeping new appropriation of public resources and a weakening of the strength of central public power to the profit of various elite groups, and finally the use of an out-dated normative model leading to misunderstanding and disconnect as long as the demand for new understanding is not satisfied.

To be continued

Reference

Moore, B., Injustice: Social bases of Obedience and Revolt, (London: Macmillan, 1978)

The Red (team) Analysis Weekly No31, 19th January 2012

No31, 19th January 2012

Moves on a dangerous chessboard: On the current – unsurprising now – chessboard of serious financial and economic crisis, tension with Iran, and resources and energy difficulties, further signs of concern appear as actors, old and new, from citizens to governments through private companies, from China to the US through Romania and Germany, assert their positions, power (capability to act) and strategies in an array of undisguised moves.

Click on the picture below to access No31

Leviathan.jpg

The Chronicles of Everstate: foreseeing the future of the modern nation-state

As riots and protests have been progressively, and in an accelerating way, occurring in many countries, starting with France in 2005, as public deficits have become structural and entrenched, made more acute by the financial and economic crisis triggered in 2007 by the sub-primes, it became increasingly clear that something was happening at the very heart of our societies. The political systems in which we live are under stress and changes are in the making.

The end of the modern nation-state?

Those very real events reflect a concern that has been underlined and debated in social sciences, notably international relations theory and political science for a long while, and most often expressed as the impending demise of the modern nation-state and related system. Already in 1977, Hedley Bull in his masterful The Anarchical Society was, among other, testing various hypotheses related to possible future evolutions of political systems. Meanwhile, most foresight products underline the end of the modern nation-state without investigating it. Furthermore, the strength or fragility of the state generates a lot of interest as a growing fragility could lead to civil war, state collapse and generalized warfare. The state is this political entity that is so difficult to define precisely and universally, and yet that we immediately recognize when we deal with it or when it is not there anymore. It is Hobbes’ Leviathan, and, without it, “the life of man [is] solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”

The type of state that is prevalent nowadays is described as modern (the modern state), centralized and rational. It is linked to the nation (the nation-state). The 1648 Treaty of Westphalia marks the birth of the modern state system.

As we, human beings, all live under one form or another of state, as it is the guarantor of security writ large, from the protection of foreign enemies to domestic peace to the foundation for material and immaterial security, as fragile states could mean strife and death, we are all primarily concerned by its potential disappearance or by foreseen changes in its form. We must be able to envision its plausible futures.

The question is absolutely crucial because from the answer will depend how we shall deal with all other issues facing us, from climate change to geopolitics through food and energy security among others.

The Chronicles of Everstate: foreseeing the future(s) of the modern nation-state

As Strategic Foresight and Warning (SF&W) is the best analytical method to envision changes and imagine possible futures, it was high time to apply SF&W to this debated and complex issue:

What will be the future of the modern nation-state this ideal-type form of polity into which most of us live nowadays, for the next twenty years?

Developing a specific foresight analytical methodology and an adequate product

The overall project evolved relatively slowly as I also wanted to use the future of the state as a case study to develop and test a foresight methodology that would be built on existing tools and overcome some existing methodological difficulties. This method had to be specifically adapted to national security issues and to incorporate science findings. Meanwhile, I also had to find a way to make it as simple of use as possible, yet without simplifying it to the point that it would lead to erroneous results. Finally, the methodology had to be testable and replicable.

Furthermore, as foresight and warning does exist only in as much as it is delivered, I had to identify who were the customers or clients for the final product, and imagine the best form the product needed to take for those customers. With time, it became increasingly obvious that those clients and users were the contemporary rulers, i.e. the nation and the citizens as well as the civil servants working for the state apparatus that supports the ruler, as explained in detail in concept and philosophy behind Red (team) Analysis.

In terms of method on the one hand, and product delivery, on the other, I soon faced a few major challenges: if the method itself was relatively simple, it could look otherwise if not explained properly, and thus lead to adverse reactions and rejection. Meanwhile, the product itself, the scenarios, stories or narratives, as they evolved, became soon too long to be conveyed through a conventional medium, apart from a book, which would mean a very long delay before publication. Last but not least, events started unfolding at an accelerated pace showing the pertinence of the foresight experiment, but also putting a supplementary time pressure on the whole project.

The Chronicles of Everstate, as will be published here, are an answer to those various concerns. Regularly, every two weeks, Red (team) Analysis will now post a new part of the Chronicles of Everstate, the fictional state created to imagine and tell the story of potential futures for our – very real – states or countries. The new post will be displayed on the home page, then will be accessible, as all posts through the menu (some categories of the menu are currently empty but will be populated with posts as times goes by).

The first post will explain precisely the rationale behind the Chronicles of Everstate, why Everstate, and how to use the concept. As it will be relatively short, the next post will be published the week after. It will open a series of posts that are methodological in focus, dwelling more in-depth into technical intricacies, somehow the nuts and bolts of the methodology, always using the future(s) of the state as example. Then, we shall finally start telling the Chronicles of Everstate; all other posts being at the same time a didactic practical application of the methodology and the development of the various scenarios for the future. In the course of the story, each scenario will be stress-tested against the same set of pressures and events.

Blog post, active reading and struggling against the persistence of beliefs

The regular publication under blog post format and thus the possibility for users and readers to interact is a specific feature that I wished to introduce in the project. Indeed, as human beings we are all prey to many cognitive biases, and it is one of the many challenges of SF&W to try to mitigate them. Among those biases, the persistence of beliefs and erroneous information may be one of SF&W’s chief enemies (Anderson, Pepper & Ross, 1980). Anderson, Pepper & Ross suggest two ways to overcome this persistence of beliefs: “Would such perseverance effects be eliminated or attenuated, for example, if subjects could be led, after debriefing, to consider explicitly the explanations that might be offered to support a contention in opposition to their initial beliefs? Alternatively, could subjects be “innoculated” against perseverance effects if they had been asked, at the outset of the study, to list all of the possible reasons they could imagine that might have produced either a positive or a negative relationship between the two variables being studied (cf. Slovic & Fischhoff, 1977)?

Building upon those two ideas, it is crucial to include within the foresight product itself an element that create and prompt active reflection. Futurists, when they develop future scenarios for businesses underline the necessity to engage decision-makers during the analytical process, through brainstorming for example, for the same reason.

However, with strategic foresight and warning for national security, it is hardly possible to use the same device. Policy-makers have tight agendas and little time available for participating in analytical processes. Furthermore, models, as we shall see soon, are too complex to allow for such an approach. To try doing it would be similar to ask users to learn programming and then participate in software development before to use a word processor. Finally, addressing also citizens forbids small groups brainstorming at analytic level for the sake of speed, cost and efficiency. Meanwhile, the fact that most people never interact, including over the world wide web, had to be considered

Something else had to be imagined, which is experimented here: to give clients – fundamentally readers – the possibility to interact directly with the product itself – but at their will and without letting the project depend upon those interactions – through:

  • comments;
  • active reading made possible by the way the method works and the narrative is developed (as will be seen with the next posts);
  • the format of accumulated blog posts that will allow, with time, navigating at will among various parts of the stories and thus develop other scenarios, according to the specific needs of users.

Finally, the blog posts/website format also aims at preserving the experimental, flexible and evolving character of the Chronicles of Everstate that has become one of the features of the project and could very well be a necessary characteristic of a Strategic Foresight and Warning analysis adapted to our contemporary world.

Welcome to the Chronicles of Everstate!

References

Anderson, Craig A., Mark R. Lepper, and Lee Ross. “Perseverance of Social Theories: The Role of Explanation in the Persistence of Discredited Information.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 1980, Vol. 39, No.6, 1037-1049.

Bull, Hedley, The Anarchical Society: A Study of Order in World Politics. London: MacMillan, 1977.

Gross, Leo (January 1948), “The Peace of Westphalia“, The American Journal of International Law 42/1 (1): 20–41, doi:10.2307/2193560.

19 June #globalrevolution: noise or weak signal?

 

Designers and graphists support the Global Revolution @ Voces con futura

On 19 June, Take the Square, a web-platform relaying regional and national information on and calls from the various Real Democracy Now movements, is calling for the official start of a global peaceful revolution – shortened as twitter’s category as #globalrevolution – expressed through a worldwide demonstration.

The Real Democracy Now movements, as has been explained by a few blog posts (e.g. Laura Gutierrez; Leila Nachawati Rego; Asteris Masouras; Martin Varsavsky) have started “officially” on May 15 in Spain and are inspired not only by the Arab (Winter-)Spring but also by the Icelandic “revolution.” First and foremost, those movements are an answer to actions by political systems that are perceived by citizens as increasingly illegitimate. Previous movements help notably by breaking feelings of powerlessness and despondency; web-based social networks accelerate and facilitate communication and organization; but none of these would be sufficient to generate collective action if everyday life situations were not increasingly felt as collectively unjust.

Amazingly, mainstream media, be they national or international, have hardly reported the various protests and movements, although they spread to many countries and progressively got more traction among citizens with varying speed and success according to national real life situations. In Greece, for example, tens of thousands of people gathered on Syntagma Square as early as May 22, ignored by all but by Facebook and Twitter followers. Meanwhile negotiations regarding the Greek bailout between European and International monetary authorities and the Greek institutions received broad coverage. The Greek movement did not recede as explained by Thalia Tzanetti in “The surprises of Syntagma and its Indignados.”

Actually, one may trace the beginning of the Spanish mobilisation that marks the start of the European and potentially global movements to March 14 on Facebook (twitter #15M). To date, the Real Democracy Now movements have spread to at least 26 countries, including the U.S., plus one endeavour spearheaded by Germany to network all European efforts in a European movement. In quantitative terms some of those mobilizations can be considered as negligible and unrepresentative. For example, if we use as indication by proxy the number of “likes” on Facebook, the U.S. movement only gathers 941 people on June 14, 2011 from 624 on June 3.  Using the same proxy indications, European movements are more important, yet also quantitatively diverse: Spain (406.425 likes) then Greece (138.740 likes) are in the lead, followed by Italy (26.065) and Ireland (21.301); many countries display between 1000 and 12000 likes, the smallest numbers are obtained by the more recent Czech Republic movement (499) and Switzerland (199, inactive since June 10). Again, using this proxy, it would seem that the mobilisation is slowing down and looking for direction, notably since the Spanish movement decided to abandon its occupation of central squares on June 12.

Were thus mainstream media and analyses right in ignoring a movement that could be considered as just one more protest of no consequence and would just die and disappear as so many European demonstrations before? Are those movements just noise rather than signals? Or is there something else here? Are those movements, on the contrary, weak – or not so weak – signals that something is amiss and that change is in the making?

Actually, alternative hypotheses can be made for the general disinterest the #Europeanrevolutions and #Globalrevolution movement has garnered, notably compared with the events in North Africa and the Middle East.

  • The Arab (Winter-)Spring can be analysed in the light of the fear of and struggle against terrorism and religious extremism, when the European and potential global movements do not carry with them straightforwardly a potential for such analyses.
  • The Arab (Winter-)Spring revolutions have been quickly re-interpreted by mainstream media as spreading pro-democracy movements, when the reality behind each mobilisation is more complex. On the contrary, what happened in Europe could not be easily labelled as pro-democracy – despite the demands of the actors – because those movements take place in… democracies.
  • The revolutionary movements and their sympathisers, wherever their location, offer and share reciprocal moral support across boundaries. Yet, despite those messages, it is likely that mainstream thinking deems the movements taking place “in the West” unworthy of attention and even unwarranted because they do not fit the still prevalent yet outdated First World/Third World ideology.
  • From the point of view of Western media and analysis, the movements taking place “at home” would demand an inward political analysis made in terms of processes, when meagre resources in political analysts are usually focused on what is foreign and on political leaders and elite, while the bulk of domestic analysis tends to be seen through an economic analysis that would be severed from political processes.
  • The European and potential global movements want themselves to be peaceful and actors responding to them did not make so far the mistake to use violence (save for a few forced evictions as in Barcelona). The overall situation has not escalated to see tension carried out as violence. The movements did not thus satisfy the “sensational events” criteria that often create interest of media and decision-makers.
  • Finally, most of those movements being grass-roots and being not used to integrate a strategy of international support, expressed themselves and communicated in vernacular languages, thus generating a mosaic of tweets and posts in Spanish, Greek, Italian, Dutch, German or French etc. and more rarely English, making it more difficult for analysts to follow and see patterns across boundaries.

The existence of so many alternative hypotheses is sufficient to let us consider that the #Europeanrevolutions and #Globalrevolution are most likely weak signals. Those movements would thus demand consideration, coverage and an in-depth analysis, which would have to include a struggle against many biases including normative ones. The work would, however be eased by the understanding and knowledge accumulated over at least the last hundred years on revolutionary movements, political mobilisation, radicalization, state-building, etc., properly adapted to present and future conditions. The least that strategic foresight and warning analysts –and policy-makers – could and should do, would be to take stock of those movements, to consider them in the light of political processes with their dynamics, and to listen to what citizens have to say as those movements and their demands may well inform the future.