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This is the 23 April 2020 issue of our weekly scan for political and geopolitical risks (open access).

Editorial: The COVID-19 has already deeply reshaped the world.

Imagine the headlines and the social networks buzz on the oil prices amazing rout, if we were not in a time of pandemic! It would certainly not be as it is now. Of course, both the COVID-19 and the oil quasi irrelevance are linked, but the imagination exercise points out how much our perceptions and interests have changed over the course of less than two months.

Yet, this “shaping the world” by the COVID-19 is likely far from being finished.

Now, we also face a fight back by those who want the world of globalisation – the world of the last 20 years – to return, expressed, among others, through favouring “herd immunity”, hyping a Swedish success in resisting isolation and lockdown, and a return of the narrative according to which “the COVID-19 is hardly more lethal than seasonal flu”.

This is mixed with a serious risk to see the U.S. collapse. But, are we certain this is “just” the U.S.? Or could it be the Western liberal democracy model that could collapse? And is this “just” this model that could end, or are we facing the collapse of the modern state system?

Furthermore, these threats are also mixed with a serious risk to see war coming to the fore. War and pandemic should not fare well together. But then, we are living extraordinary and bizarre times, with cascading and complex impacts. And animosity is running high, notably against China. And China has also to face the very likely end of the bounty that was delocalisation, as countries want to recover their industrial and economic sovereignty.

And these are only some of the major uncertainties we face.

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 Scan

The 23 April 2020 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.

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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