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Post-Pandemic Scenarios – I

The 11 macro-forces that are shaping our future, 10 on the outher ring, the 11th, technology, underpinning all of them. Image credit: Future Today Institute

The Future Today Institute has just released its annual analyses of macro trends. This year it is a special release in that the pandemic has created a disruption in our lives and in business. So it is particularly interesting to take a look at their analyses and foresight.

As shown in the graphic they are considering 11 “forces” that condition/steer the evolution. Also notice that no single entity has the control on these forces in today’s world. In fact, each of them affects, and is affected by, the whole planet and even the big powers can only control/steer a part of it.  Take, as an example, telecommunications infrastructures. There is no single entity that controls (nor can control) the overall connectivity. This has several effects:

  • upgrades to an infrastructure by a player steers (forces) other players operating in the market to respond
  • the delivery of a service that is tied to a specific infrastructure, like the offering of an edge cloud, can only benefit the small constituency of that Operator, whilst a cloud service provided “over” the telecom infrastructure can potentially benefit everybody. This is a big issue for Telecom Operators that are self limiting their market! In other words, in order to reach the whole market they should operate as “over the top”.

Besides , these forces are mutually influencing one another. This means that we have to deal with a complex system where it is not possible to segment one part and look at it independently of the others.

The common denominator that is affecting everything is technology and technology is affected by all the other forces in its evolution since they can steer investment and in turns this provides fuel to innovation and progress in specific areas.

The FTI report starts with an interesting presentation of the methodology they have adopted: this provides several insights on what is important in identifying scenarios and it is a value in itself, particularly interesting if you involved in foresight.

I also found interesting their characterisation of scenarios in terms of time horizon:

  • up to five years: look at what is probable
  • from five to ten years: look at what could be plausible
  • beyond ten years: consider what is possible.

The near term horizon can be used for tactical decision, the medium term for creating a strategic vision and the long term to consider system wide changes and their impact on long term planning. If you are interested in learning more on foresight methods,, specifically applied to the Digital Transformation you may want to look at the IEEE-EIT Digital DX course.

What is important to notice, and this is the specific value of this year report, is that a disruption can change the landscape and make actual scenarios that were considered possible in a 10 year time frame. Of course their actualisation cannot exploit conditions that would become available in the longer time frame but still they are becoming reality by “making-do” of what is available today. An obvious example is the scenario of a strong uptake of remote working that was seen as possible in the next decade and that all of a sudden has become real.

In following posts I will pick up some of their scenarios sharing my perspective and soliciting your comments.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the New Initiative Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He is a member of the IEEE in 2050 Ad Hoc Committee. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.