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This is the 16 July 2020 issue of our weekly scan for political and geopolitical risks (open access).

Editorial: As a very short editorial, we highlight two articles which are extremely interesting, not only because of their content but also because of the publishing platform considering the content, namely Reuters. Content and publisher together make these articles unusual and as a result they become significant signals.

And yes, I cheated, the algorithm did not pick them nor did they result from crowdsourcing. I added them manually, because they are important signals of change, potentially very deep change at work.

These two articles are “Breakingviews – Chancellor: Wall Street is firmly in Wonderland” by Edward Chancellor and “How to read U.S. economic data, without the spin” by Ann Saphir. I highly recommend you read them both, in the light of all the other signals collected, and of course in the framework of the current global situation.

Added, for example, to the billionaires’ letter asking to be taxed (yes, that is possible), these two articles highlight that the system we have known at least since the end of the Cold War, and probably before, is most probably living its last days (that may be months). It also speaks of mounting discontent and exasperation. That a serious international news agency such as Reuters could highlight facts and reality in such a satyrical way is amazing in itself. That the target of the satyr could be the financial world, the economy, the U.S., the positivity mindset and “brilliant” communication strategies where everything is emphatically fantastic and incredible and great, whatever the real disaster it addresses is telling.

We are probably at the dawn of very interesting changes indeed.

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 16 July 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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