Credit Image: ESO/José Francisco Salgado (josefrancisco.org)

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.

This week, if you want to be kept awake at night, you have the choice first to focus on the escalation between the U.S. and China, which could very well signal the “Thucydides Trap” has sprang into action, to use Harvard professor Graham Allison research. According to him, “when a rising power threatens to displace a ruling one, the most likely outcome is war.” Watch the short (2:55) video below, right before the scan, to get the gist of the argument and research. Watching the video before reading the Weekly, truly highlights the crucial importance of the dynamics currently unfolding.

Then, you will find the other highest ranking signals in terms of international tension, notably U.S. and others – Iran, and Libya… Then, climate change, cybersecurity, etc. and some potential much more constructive signals regarding, among others quantum science and artificial intelligence.

Belfer Center Initiative on the Thucydides’s Trap

This week’s scan is ready, check it out below …

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.

The 16 May 2019 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 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: Four ALMA antennas on the Chajnantor plain – ESO/José Francisco Salgado (josefrancisco.org)

About the author: Dr Helene Lavoix (MSc PhD Lond)

Dr Helene Lavoix, PhD Lond (International Relations), is the Director of The Red (Team) Analysis Society. She is specialised in strategic foresight and warning for national and international security issues. Her current focus is on Artificial Intelligence, Quantum Science, and Security. She teaches at Master level at SciencesPo-PSIA.

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