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This is the 9 April 2020 issue of our weekly scan for political and geopolitical risks (open access). Again, a very large part is devoted to the COVID-19. Read the scan below, after the editorial, quite long this week.


First, this week’s scan features the excellent article “Stretching the International Order to Its Breaking Point” by Thomas Wright, Senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in L'Atlantique. The highlight for the article reads:

“The greatest error that geopolitical analysts can make may be believing that the crisis will be over in three to four months.”

It is not only geopolitical analysts that are making this error, but, apparently, an increasingly large majority of people, whatever their position and role in the system.

As we progress here, at The Red (Team) Analysis Society, with the building of scenarios for the COVID-19, the idea of a crisis with a rapid end looks more and more improbable, not to say impossible. The COVID-19 is a pandemic, caused by a highly contagious, dangerous virus about which we know extremely little. It is highly improbable it disappears as if by magic, because it is inconvenient to human beings.

The sketch Wright paints for the future is highly interesting and is definitely a must read.

The second point I would like to make for this scan, considering the signals collected, is the incredible sheer mass of texts, articles, posts, etc. produced on the COVID-19. It is not only the COVID-19 cases that grow exponentially, but also publications about it. Thus, we are also faced with the dangers of a huge information overload. It is impossible to keep track of all the articles. It is impossible to even skim through them to sort out quality articles from rubbish, serious articles from fake news, scientific analysis from mere opinion. We certainly cannot rely on Google or search engines, as their algorithms rarely privileges quality and relevance. Google, for example, in its ranking, puts a high premium on page-speed and commercial stuff. But are these truly important criteria to find truly crucial articles on key uncertainties regarding the COVID-19?

The COVID-19 information overload will accelerate the need for closure, which is already enhanced by the stress and the crisis. The need for closure is the imperious need to get answers, any answer, immediately. It rises notably with time-pressure, critical when going through duress and crisis, and with environmental noise, which includes information overload (for more on the need for closure, cognitive biases in general and strategies to mitigate them, see our online course 1 – Geopolitical Risks and Crisis Anticipation: Analytical Model – module 2). Of course, when faced with a pandemic, jumping to decisions and responses is not a very good idea. On the contrary, one needs to think peacefully and to use evidenced-based analysis, and to wait, when necessary, until proper analysis and science-based findings become available. Thus one needs to have a low need for closure.

Now, the very means we have to obtain analysis and scientific articles, the web, because of the massive amount of texts on the COVID-19, creates an information and cognitive overload that, in turn, generates need for closure thus stops the capacity to think. Thus, to be able to know, we impair our ability to think.

Disaster looms.

Actors will probably fall back on classical means to obtain information: the system as it exists (which includes also the pre-COVID-19 Google, Bing and others algorithms). But, this directs us to ask a very inconvenient question.What led us all to first an outbreak of a completely unknown disease, then to an epidemic then to a pandemic, with all the unpreparedness that is everywhere increasingly documented is this very system. Hence, is that system the best to select the relevant and reliable information we need to face and overcome the pandemic?

If not the system then what? Could part of the system be salvaged and should other parts be abandoned? Here our topic is selection of quality and relevant analysis, but should these questions be also extended to the whole system?

The Scan

Avec la technique de l'horizon scanning, nous recueillons chaque semaine des signaux faibles - et moins faibles. Ceux-ci indiquent des problèmes nouveaux, émergents, en escalade ou en voie de stabilisation. En conséquence, ils indiquent comment les tendances ou dynamiques évoluent.

The 9 April 2020 scan→

Horizon scanning, signaux faibles et biais

Nous caractérisons les signaux comme faibles quand il est encore difficile de les distinguer parmi une vaste gamme d'événements. Cependant, nos biais altèrent souvent notre capacité à mesurer la force du signal. En conséquence, la perception de la force variera en fonction de la conscience de l'acteur. Dans le pire des cas, les biais peuvent être si importants qu'ils bloquent complètement l'identification même du signal.

Dans le domaine de la prospective et de l'alerte stratégiques, de la veille stratégique, de la gestion des risques et des études sur le futur, il appartient aux bons analystes de scanner l'horizon. En conséquence, ils peuvent percevoir les signaux. Les analystes évaluent ensuite la force de ces signaux en fonction de risques et de dynamiques spécifiques. Enfin, ils transmettent leurs résultats aux utilisateurs. Ces utilisateurs peuvent être d’autres analystes ou des décideurs.

Vous pouvez lire une explication plus détaillée dans l'un de nos articles fondamentaux: Horizon scanning, veille et surveillance pour l'alerte précoce: définition et pratique.

Les sections du scan

Chaque section de l'analyse se concentre sur les signaux liés à un thème spécifique:

  • monde (politique internationale et géopolitique);
  • économie;
  • science including AI, QIS, technology and weapons, ;
  • analyse, stratégie et avenir;
  • the Covid-19 pandemic;
  • énergie et environnement.

Cependant, dans un monde complexe, les catégories ne sont qu'un moyen commode de présenter des informations alors que faits et événements interagissent.

Les informations collectées (crowdsourced) ne signifient pas endossement.

L'image sélectionnée: 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.

A propos de l'auteur: Dr Helene Lavoix (MSc PhD Lond)

Dr Hélène Lavoix, PhD Lond (Relations internationales), est le directeur de The Red (Team) Analysis Society. Elle est spécialisée dans la prospective stratégique et l'alerte en matière de sécurité nationale et internationale. Elle se concentre actuellement sur l'intelligence artificielle, la science quantique et la sécurité. Elle enseigne au niveau Master à SciencesPo-PSIA.

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