(Credit Image: ESO/P. Horálek)

Editorial – “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.” Winston Churchill, May 1940.

Most signals of the scan are unsurprisingly related to the COVID-19 pandemic. As started being obvious last week, the pandemic has now spread to all sectors.

Domestic and external tensions rise around and with the COVID-19. We increasingly witness accusations of mismanagement against governments, as well as rising anger at foreign countries. The threat, the shock – no, the fantastic consumer society of the 21st century is not invulnerable – and the sudden complete change of habits imposed on populations also triggers the quest for culprits.

When hope and courage should be kindled to overcome adversity, when cooperation should be sought, we also have the opposite. Matthew Karnitsching’s article in Politico, “Coronavirus: The incompetence pandemicthat we chose as featured article, sums it up with its opening sentence: “Welcome to politics’ darkest hour.”

The response to a why we have to face this tragedy lies also probably in a long term understanding of the evolution of political systems. Political systems too have a lifespan. They are created to answer the needs of a specific society. They succeed in doing so for usually a rather long while, meaning centuries. Meanwhile societies evolve.

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And comes a point when the old system that used to be so efficient is not at all adapted to reality anymore. The old system usually does not want to go away as interests are too entrenched (see The Chronicles of Everstate). Thus, constructive change does not take place.

Instead, history taught us that human systems need tragic events to shed the old and let the new be born. Among these events, we find epidemics and war. We are probably starting to live such a turning point in history.

To know it does not alleviate sufferings and fear, tears and death. But it may contribute to give meaning to tragedy It may help us fostering strength to survive and then reconstruct.

This is the 19 March 2020 issue of our weekly scan for geopolitical risks (open access). Access it below.

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.

The 19 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;
  • The Covid-19 pandemic;
  • 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.

Published by 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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