Credit Image: ESO/José Francisco Salgado (

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.

Editorial: A couple of years ago, the idea of threats convergence tried to gain ground, with imperfect success. Now, it looks like we have arrived at this moment when threats or rather dynamics with negative consequences not only pile up but also feed back into each other.

In the case of climate change, because, among others, of short-termism, narrow self-interest, rising inequality, and probably stress stemming from an uncertain and unstable global context, all greatly encouraged when in 2008 global political authorities bowed to finance, to which must be added race for technological supremacy, finally no one takes serious actions – beyond discourse. As a result the situation goes on worsening. The costs of both action and inaction increase. We are trapped in a lethal deadlock.

Meanwhile, all other tensions must be handled on a background of climate change worsening impact and accompanying deadlock. This, of course, is not very conducive to peaceful, rational and smart analysis. Hence wrong and escalating decisions are more likely to be taken.

After all, looking at threats convergence ten years ago would not have been such a bad idea.

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.

Below the scan itself, we briefly explain what is horizon scanning and what are weak signals.

The 27 June 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 (

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 national and international security issues. Her current focus is on the COVID-19 Pandemic, methodology of SF&W, radicalisation as well as artificial intelligence and quantum tech and security. She teaches at Master level at SciencesPo-PSIA.

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