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(Credit Image: ESO/P. Horálek)

This is the 12 March 2020 issue of our weekly scan for geopolitical risks (open access).

Editorial: This week is heavily focused on the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic increasingly spreads to all sectors. This prefigures what will be our lives over the next weeks and more likely months. The signals also start pointing towards new possibilities for the post-COVID-19 world. That world will likely be very different from what we knew.

Right now, of particular interest, is the article in Italian “Coronavirus, contagiati e morti: cosa succederà in Usa, Francia e Germania. Parla Ricciardi (Oms-Salute)“. We kept articles in original languages, thus we recommend that you read them in Chrome, using the translate option (if it does not appear on your screen, right-click anywhere on the page and choose translate). Many other articles are important, including very practically a MedXiv (not yet peer-reviewed) article on “Aerosol and surface stability of HCoV-19 (SARS-CoV-2)“. You will also find signals on the situation in Syria, the resurgence of Jihadists, Turkey, etc.

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.

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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 12 March 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 AI, QIS, technology and weapons, ;
  • analysis, strategy and futures;
  • epidemics (New);
  • 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: Milky Way above SPECULOOS / The Search for habitable Planets – EClipsing ULtra-cOOl Stars (SPECULOOS) is searching for Earth-like planets around tiny, dim stars in front of a panorama of the Milky Way. Credit: ESO/P. Horálek.

Image for the online course: Science fiction becomes science fact, “The Future Battlefield“, Army ALT MagazineScience and Technology, July 18, 2018 – Public Domain

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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