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Politics and the 'people dimensions' of the archetypes

Politics and the 'people dimensions' of the archetypes


This text is focused on the way in which people interact with the scenario archetypes. However, it goes a great deal further than that, which makes it a long and fairly complex text. This introduction sets out the chief component parts of the argument. Comments from the scenario teams and others are here.

The archetypes represent necessary trajectories in sociopolitical capacity if certain outcomes are to be achieved. That is, if the expected outcome is an increasingly general solution to the 'systems issues' which face humanity, the the trajectory has to be something of the order of Oh My Gawd, hereafter referred to as OMG. If the world is to maintain its technological and commercial momentum, but also have sharply divided wealth and political capacity, and no real solutions to the systemic environmental, security and stability issues, then the trajectory will look much like Yesterday's Future, or YF. Finally, a descent into Fearsome Chaos is not at all off the books. FC is an archetype which is unlikely to envelop the entire world, but might very well afflict those parts that are not in YF.

Three major considerations collide in this material.

The results of doing this are illuminating, if complex, and take us a long stride away from archetypes and towards scenarios. The conclusions are summarised here. Discussion about how narratives form are here, and on the resulting blocks here.

Paths into increasing complexity

Paths into increasing complexity

The basic concept of the archetypes is that they are ways of entering the future that have the institutional and commercial capacity to deal with more or less complexity than the recent past. We can be certain that the future has an almost limitless ability to increase in complexity, either of an enabling sort or the sort of complexity that requires endless negotiation to get anything done.

The figure that is shown below symbolises the three archetype trajectories. The shaded background shows the innate level of global complexity that has to be made tractable. Societies and blocks which cannot handle this are deflected downwards, for example following the black line symbolising the archetype Fearsome Chaos.

Plainly, there are two variables in play: how complex the situation has become, and what responses are made to it. Plainly, some political responses by some groups will affect the background, making it more or less complex. Equally, complexity may arrive quickly or may be delayed beyond expectation. The consequences are suggested in the figure which is shown below. This reproduces in miniature the figure just shown, but with complexity arriving more quickly and more slowly. (We have called these Cases 0, 1 and 2, and this nomenclature will be used throughout.)

The interaction between the exogenous challenge – climate, famine – and the endogenous issues – collaboration or blame, building accords or pursuing beggar-my-neighbour – set an upper threshold, above which pro-active political collaboration is unlikely. That is, events may take political collaboration above this threshold, but they will be external to the formal political process. This is shown as the dotted yellow line on the figure

Examples of such drivers of political collaboration could include:

Consider the central Case 0, in which the major systemic challenges present themselves relatively slowly. The limits to political capability around international collaboration was pressed close to its limits before the crisis that began in 2007: war, the relative failure of climate mitigation, the slow progress of the European Union and the poor opinion in which the US was held are all examples of this limit. The financial crisis provided an impetus, shown as a rise in the dotted line on the figure.

Projecting this forward, the likely protracted recession created by current levels of debt will, arguably, not encourage a further expansion in collaboration – indeed, lead to a probable reduction in it – to the end of the ‘teens. The onset of systemic challenges – and the slow run up to these – allows the potential to collaborate in their solution to rise, as shown thereafter.

The rest of the figure is probably self-explanatory, except for the 'trumpet' shape to the yellow line under OMG in Case 1, the early onset Strong Challenge. Here, exogenous factors demand action. Endogenous political forces may then rise to the challenge - upper line - or fail to do so. As the challenge is real and pressing, failing to address it has only one destination: for at least some regions, and depending on the nature of the crisis or crises, FC.

This assessment is open to debate, but is at least a structure around which to assemble this. We can take it a step further, however, as shown in the figure below. Here, the three archetypes are set against the three rates at which the challenges present themselves. The resulting nine intersections are scored against four criteria. These are described in the key at the foot of the figure.

The scores are shown as red dots, where four implies that, for example, Case 2 OMG has - demands - a strongly global response, that this is only mildly supported by traditional national politics, is therefore in need of 'meta-political' pressure - see the key for examples, and also above - and is likely to experience only mild endogenous resistance to political change. The figure in the box shows the total score, a measure of the intensity with which political transactions are taking place.

The figure shows us a number of interesting outcomes. First, Case 2, the slow onset of challenges, produces powerful dynamics only in the OMG case, and essentially defaults to YF. The FC archetype, as already noted, is not intense. The medium Case 0 has very similar strength dynamics throughout. The situation with rapid onset, Case 1 is, however, dramatic and driven by the internal narrative dynamics. Responses are global only in FC - where everyone panics and goes for local advantage - and driven by a strong but largely elite political and meta-political response in OMG. YF s a sort of 'failed FC', with a small group hanging on to advantage.


Political flocking: the group narrative

Political flocking: the group narrative

We can, therefore, see when and where the birds scatter, and when they will have to flock together. The next issue is how this flocking takes place.

We can begin with some assumptions about the political and economic background to the early years of the scenario period. Below-trend growth will probably characterise the world for the next decade. Policy responses are essentially built to serve a national or interest base, not an abstract collective or global good. Non-zero sum outcomes to policy challenges are not, therefore, pre-ordained, and under intense pressure ‘selfish’ responses become increasingly likely. Many of the exogenous challenges will present themselves piecemeal - as did the financial crisis - and will be hard to recognise as being systematic.

It is also the case that endogenous, social and commercial forces can, of course, pull in two directions:

These somewhat independent dimensions can be symbolised on a matrix, as shown below. The lack of independence shows up in the untenable zones, shaded dark gray. The red numbers mark regions which are described by the key, below.

There follows a sequence of images that use exactly the same dimensions, but which show the trajectories which the different archetypes follow under different conditions of crisis onset. The space marked in yellow is identical to that shown above as the limits to the politics of national self-interest. To go beyond the yellow area is to expose your nation to potentially severe short-term risk.

The OMG case extends beyond the bounds of conventional political action, driven by what we have called meta-politics and perhaps by enabling technological advance. The YF case remains comfortably conventional, and FC represents a trajectory into a world nearer to the early Twentieth century than the mid-Twenty first.

The enforced movement of OMG is backed by a change in the acceptable limits to national politics, but once again they are not enough to drive the scenario. OMG requires an additional 'spark'. FC is more extreme, and elements of FC will oppose the early years of OMG as representing alarming and intrusive change. We discuss this below.

Last, we examine the slow onset Case 2. The OMG and YF cases are essentially indistinguishable until the 2030s, and OMG does not penetrate much beyond the bounds of conventional politics. It is simply the obvious way to go. FC is almost eradicated both as a political ideology and as an economic possibility for all but the most chauvinist of groups and benighted of nations.

The figure that is shown below is the same matrix, but which the political bounds shown superimposed on each other, marking the collaborative and adversarial bounds. The yellow "sun" represents the necessary "new" meta-politics if OMG is to be brought about.

In summary, therefore, there is a political tension that plays itself out across this space which can be simplified in the chart shown below. At the one end we have what might be called 'post-globalisation' politics; and at the other the all too familiar voices of nationalism, populist protectionism and the rejection of the modern world and the problems that it has brought.

We have seen that political reaction to change has a major role in the shaping of these archetypes. The next section considers which groups of people might align themselves with these situations when the various exogenous forces come into play.


On the formation of national political characteristics

On the formation of national political characteristics

The feature that most distinguishes nations from each other is neither the facts of geography or resource but rather socioeconomic factors, often rooted in history, always expressed through a web of habit and myth, hidden assumptions and more or less false public positions. However, it remains an unanswered question why these differences exist. One can table a list of questions about this:

A superficially simple question to ask is what has to be true for us to say that groups differ. The answer is that the measured characteristics of differing nations have a certain dispersal. However, the variation within national clusters is to be less than the dispersal between between them: that daffodils and tulips both vary, but each group has less internal variance than the difference beteen the two clusters.

This situation is simply not true of nations when the scater of psychological types is measured. Decades of intensive measurement shows that the fundamental psychological dimensions - introversion-extroverion, and so forth - are scattered randomly between populations. However, if we measure expressed attitudes - to modernity, to personal liberty or conformity to a group norm - we find strong national differences. These differences must be socially constructed - that is, must be distilled and instilled by social processesand by conscious indoctrination.

You've got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You've got to be taught
From year to year,
It's got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade,
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught before it's too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You've got to be carefully taught!

Rodgers and Hammerstein, South Pacific (1958)

The outcome of this is usually termed the 'narrative' of a social group. An individual will have narratives that they use to 'explain to themselves' their daily experience. These draw heavily on social norms, things learned when young and benchmarks, such as individual social status. Plainly, there are several ways of interpreting a given set of circumstances: a poor person can see themselves as an unfortunate, passive part of a natural order, as a victim who is entitled to criminality as a way of getting even, as a person entitled to support from the community, as a revolutionary; very much and so forth. That is, aspects of life - from being sick to being a mother, an employee or a sports fan have narratives that help a person navigate, make rapid decisions and empathise how others make be thinking an feeling.

Groups of people also have narratives about who they are and how they see the world. These are generally constructed from a range of sub-narratives which exist in the population - such as that of being poor, as above - and those who wish to influence debate do so chiefly by flipping individuals from one interpretation to another. (This, inter alia, is why political debate is so little driven by fact and ideas, and so much by the techniques of identity-related rhetoric.) The sub-narratives are roughly common throughout the world - they are, in a sense, the elements out of which the molecules of politics are built - but the proportion of the population who hold them are varied by issues such as age, ethnicity, affluence and educational status, typically bundled together as a function of the stage of economic development of the country and the depth and nature of its historical and cultural legacy.

On the left of the figure, the way in which these populations vary with income is sketched in. Data show that the traditionalist stance - and its sub-set, the bewildered, whose traditional narrative has been smashed by events, but who have yet to find a new one - falls to a third of the population when incomes per capita reach around $3000. Traditionalist numbers change little thereafter, but are predominantly held by the poor and the elderly. Consumerist attitudes become important thereafter, tapering away after an income per capita of $10,000 per annum. Consumers, in the sense that the word is used here, are people concerned with material betterment for themselves and their immediate family. They have lost community ties and regard the state as a backdrop that provides the dull necessities. The replacement attitudes are those of people more concerned with the workings of the social engine. These three groups suffer mutual incomprehension as their values, narratives and means of debate are broadly incompatible. A nation is represented by a vertical or left-slanting line on the figure.

Plainly, the tension in politics, and the three centres of weight that we discussed in the preceding sections have much to say to this figure. Traditionalists and the lower end of the consumer group are susceptible to protectionism-rejectionist narratives. Consumers and prone the cosmopolitan YF style, whilst the post-globalisation format required for OMG to develop fully has its heartland amongst the individuals represented by the yellow area on the figure. Authoritarianism clusters in the right of the figure, and notably in the bottom left.

This characterisation does not, however, get us to the sub narratives that may 'flip' under the tensions of events. To find these, we need to examine the figure on the right. This is a sketch that will be improved once the basic structure is clear. International studies about values and attitudes find that there two dominant dimensions which capture much of the variation that is found within populations in respect of their perspective on society as a whole. These are developed more fully in the figure that is shown below, but in their simple form they are as shown. Vertically, people embrace or reject change; horizontally they see themselves predominantly as individuals or else as part of a broader collective. The quality of the attitudes found in the quadrants are clear from the diagram.

The figure shown above uses exactly the same dimensions as have just been discussed. The wording has been expanded to give the full richness of the attitudes that are being encapsulated by them. Within the figure, the coloured areas represent the sub-narratives that are commonly in play across the world. These are best understood as follows:

The colours hark back to the figure that we have just discussed. Traditionalists are shown in orange, brown and dark red. Consumers are shown in light orange and beige; those who are concerned by the workings of society in yellow. If we return to the previous figure - showing how narratives tend to develop as countries become richer - we can sketch in the centres of weight for these sub-narratives. Generalisation is dangerous, but the centres of weight fall broadly in a diagonal across the figure. “Unreflective enthusiasm” is shown as a dotted line as it associates with educated youth, which is found everywhere, but which is typically middle class and moving from consumerism to Structured Concern.

We can take this further, as shown below. Here, we have divided the world into six clusters, not of nations but rather social groups within nations. The old rich world is divided into those with high skills and those without these. The industrialising world is divided in the same way. Finally, we look at primary producer countries - those which rely on minerals and agriculture for much of their income and divide these between the industrialised (chiefly those who are currently oil exporters) and the non-industrialised.

The proportional share of the narratives for each of these groups has been estimated - a Delphi process, with some numerical input - and this is shown in the table. Readers are encouraged to offer critique of this, but it turns out that the results that flow from this analysis are broadly robust to all but the most sweeping changes. The bar chart shows the same data in graphical form.

The relative global global weight of the sub-narratives are shown in the following pie chart. Population data are for 2008, and these will of course be shifts within the scenario period. Nevertheless, even making allowances for these changes, the size of the 'structured concern' population is tiny when compared to the potential forces that could be raised against it.

We will come back to numerical weight in a moment. First, however, let us return to the three political clusters that we identified in the preceding section: post-globalisation politics, the driver of OMG, the cosmopolitan politics of YF and the nationalist-rejectionist or populist politics that is at its happiest in FC. The figure sets these three narratives against the six sub-narratives. Happy blue faces take this political style forward, fizzing red bombs oppose it. The more symbols are shown, the more strongly the force is felt.

Once again, it is for the reader to judge the appropriateness of these scores. Nevertheless, some clear lessons emerge from this. Post-globalisation politics - the yellow 'blob' that we found at the end of the preceding chapter, the all-important impulse to transnational systems management - is supported by three relatively small groups, one of them inclined to bolt if the process does not deliver consumer benefits. The middle-of-the-road types are vaguely against it, as it erodes all that they see as fixed and valuable. The other, larger groups are adamantly against it although, as we saw in the first section, the fact of early impacts might alter this.

The cosmopolitan nationalist politics of YF are the default condition: no-one is hugely against them but consumers are happy so long as they deliver 'quality of life'. This is predicated on late or negligible systems impacts, however. A lot of people appear to be for - if not 'like' - the politics of FC. Only the structured concern people are adamantly opposed to these developments, and they are a minority of voices and countries. As we have seen from the first section, an early impact of systems changes could create two outcomes: a descent into FC if these voices dominate, a movement towards OMG if they 'structured concern' voices are heard. Indeed, as these voices are predominantly based in eh powerful nations, a degree of force may be required to win this 'debate'. If the debate is lost to FC, plainly it will be difficult to recover in a world of failing systems,scarce resources and 9 billion people.

Our final figure shows an assessment which may strain the estimate piled upon estimate too far. However, we have combined the scores from the preceding two tables - numbers of people holding a sub narrative, and strength of feeling about this under the three political styles that we have just explored, to arrive at the following figure:

This figure suggests a number of messages. The black ribbon (FC) has the preponderant weight of global populist opinion behind it. YF is the preferred 'middle of the road' outcome, given that nothing overly challenging occurs. The red ribbon, that stands for OMG, shows that this response to events and technology is is opposed by powerful forces, and it proponents are far from a majority even in their heart land. They will need to project their power very carefully to achieve the required result, even when the problems are egregious and solutions are to hand. The dangers of triggering a disaffected response, moving to FC, are very real in a world of early crisis, limited money and not clear technical solutions. To require the world to change its habits quickly is to be erased from the global narrative. The blue ribbon - representing YF - is much supported by consumers and by the middle-of-the-road group.



Let us recapitulate the argument. We have looked at the three archetypes against three possible situations: when some degree of world governance is needed earlier than anticipated, more or less on time or late. Such demands might come from exogenous factors, such as climate change, or endogenous ones such as intransigent politics. We find that a full response goes beyond the bounds of traditional nationalist politics in every case, as perhaps should be expected. We identify three political styles that match the OMG, YF and FC archetypes: respectively the politics of post-globalisation, of a cosmopolitan projection of current inequalities and other trends, and a populist-nationalist rejectionist style.

We set these aside and turn to look at how political narratives are supported and changed. First, we note that there are styles that vary with the development stage around the world. We are able to characterise the key dimensionality of these styles - forward looking or retrospective-traditional; and collective outlook as contrasted with that of individualism. The resulting space is populated with six sub-narratives, ways of seeing the world and one's role within it.

These sub-narratives are very roughly divided amongst the world's populations, giving us a sense of the scale and physical-political location of these groups. The small scale of the post-globalisation 'army' is clear, and the vast preponderance of people wanting nothing much to change, or hating change when it arrives, is also evident. We characterise the shape of this dissent and attempt to put a rough scale on the balance of forces. In essence, to prevail, the post-globalisation group (OMG) will have to make full use of their domestic economic (and perhaps military) power. They will only have the legitimacy to do this if the issues are plainly critical and imminent. OMG will not happen globally and all at once, and may very likely to expel rejectionist groups who feel threatened by it. One should never forget that amongst the opponents of OMG are electorates in developed world countries: consumers and others who do not want to alter their habits or accept curbs. This is not a situation in which a united block of nations make common cause to push for change. Each nation has multifaceted opponents to everything from reduced freedoms to the use of advanced technologies, and will b locked into internal debate about these. One should note that the pace at which these present themselves to the legislature will be far higher than has been experienced in human history.

By contrast, FC can happen globally and has powerful accelerators built into it. A possible configuration is the near-inverse of what has just been discussed: that is, a majority of the world in their various encampments, with a small minority attempting to maintain something less like OMG than YF.

YF is the 'default case', where the majority of the world hope and expect to arrive in due time. It has no solutions built into it for the global systems issues, but will naturally have solved some of these piecemeal. It is likely to evolve into OMG if given time, once again leaving fragments of FC scattered around the world.

The results tell a clear tale. OMG cannot happen globally all at once. It has to grow from an enthusiastic nucleus to encompass the much greater numbers who oppose it by example, propaganda and perhaps force. FC can indeed happen globally, and has powerful accelerators built into it. YF is by definition non-global, as it emphasises current disparities. However, opposition and support do not break into clear geographical packages, but are rather extant within nations. One political sub-narrative can have quite different interpretation in this scenario in different populations: ‘uncertain’ people in wealthy countries want protection; the same group in poor ones may see (may be encouraged to see) the world in terms of blame and aggression. The one sides with the establishment, the other with the Ultras.

"First and in terms of focus, soul states looks at India, China, Brazil and S Africa not as BRIC-esque emerging economies but as proxies for challenge and opportunity in a complex world. 'Global' is too big to be meaningful; 'local' is too narrow to be relevant: collectively, the soul states give us an access point. Second, and in terms of approach, soul states is designed to deliver insight from across silos rather than judgement from within silos; to 'pull' readers to consider a wider world, supported by visual images and by a non-linear format that means anyone can read any slide."



Response 1: We here are looking forward to this paper keenly. I wish to congratulate you and the team on an excellent job. In India we see just the same patterns as you have described, and we have parties which are very like the political types that you talk about. This is most helpful in having debate. However, we have been talking about scenarios and I do not see scenarios here yet. What are the steps to getting these scenarios? It would be most helpful to us for you to lay this fully out for us to see all.

Response 2: This seems to come from the political planet Mars, and has no reference to anything that I have experienced in politics. You make no allowance for leadership, which I can tell you from personal experience is about as important as timing. And after those, nothing else much counts. So the OMG scenario will not happen without leadership: fine, let's assume that the great powers are not too stupid to get ourselves the right leaders. In the other cases, there is no fine leadership, perhaps, but if the thing can only happen with an extra-special push, then we have to assume an extra-special pusher. We've had them before. The world is not short of leaders, just opportunities for them to lead. Churchill would have been nothing without war, and for war, he was the perfect fit.

Response 3: I echo the remarks from India. This is an extraordinary piece of analysis - I haven't seen anything like this before, and you are to be either congratulated or scolded for your boldness in putting it out in public to be shot at - but I am not sure where it takes us. So to put that right and to be as bold myself, I want to have a try at unearthing the scenarios.

First one: Early systems failure onset, aggressive rich world intervention to force compliance with relevant tools and rules. Some nations join together to demand the right for a 'dirty rush for growth', or, perhaps like the polio immunisation event in Nigeria, to reject tools that are viewed as irreligious. (In the late 1990s, judgments from Islamic leaders given in Northern Nigeria prevented the immunisation of children against polio as 'West-toxication'. The result was a polio epidemic that spilled into neighbouring countries.)

Ten years on, 'strong leadership' on both sides have generated an impasse, and we have entrenched positions consolidating into blocks. This is neither OMG nor FC, but a cold war with extraordinary tools being deployed by the would-be OMG side.

Very large sums are transferred to compliant nations in order to improve their facilities and general practices. Selected individuals are allowed into the core nations, but fear of terror limits this considerably. Extreme labour shortages in the old rich world lead to unusual reliance on automation of systems. Apparently or quasi-aware systems become commonplace and engage in self-design to generate a spiral of capability; and mind-extending man-machine interfaces become a necessary feature of the workplace. This and human biological redesign is seen as further evidence of a set of societies out of control; whilst the intransigent groups become ever more obdurate. Irredentist movements aim to 'save' their supporters from within the territories of the other, and given the ethnic mixing of the next thirty years, many such enclaves will exist. The enforcement of standards by the core nations do, however, eventually sweep many into compliance, but at the cost of a 'them and us' mentality that will persist for generations.

Second one: Middling timing for systems failure onset, YF background. The wealth exists, and the model of self-improvement is clear to all, so a gradual and aspiration-driven move towards region-specific OMG is feasible. Fast growth has led to early resource scarcity, so people are used to doing more with less. Economic activity has driven science and technology faster than anticipated, so technical fixes exist for things we do not now even see as problems.

This is a fluid, fast changing and cosmopolitan world, with substantial labour mobility. Educational standards are high as everyone knows that qualifications - and human skills - is how you 'get on'. This world is extremely aware of events, treasures information and has essentially abandoned privacy. However, it makes no attempts at global political unification - over and above the necessary rules for an orderly world of trade and stability - and Grand Leaders are frowned upon as examples of hubris.

Third one: Early-middle systems challenges to a world of patchy economic performance (as per China, Japan today.) Many societies are feeling weary and past their best, including China. The will is there to address global issues, but somehow there is never sufficient collective interest and policy measures are more cosmetic than real. The challenge thus gets worse, until acute issues - dying seas, epidemics - enforce attention. Reaction then splits between those prepared to take difficult measures and those who do not accept external imperatives, or who do not have the resources.

The result is a world that is much more difficult to manage, and with many more things that it is required to manage. Social and economic overheads rise, and this slows growth and the political process. It is hard to see how such a case does not slide into FC, perhaps with some of the tunnels having light at the end of them, but pretty hopeless for most

Really, now that I have written this I kind of understand what you were doing in the paper. I could not have written these ideas before I read it. So, I will go back and read it again.

Response 4: You do seem to have given demographics short shrift. By 2050, the human balance will have shifted. The Economist has done a good paper on this in the last issue, drawing heavily on OECD work. Europe, China, the US to a lesser degree get old in the 2030s but should be regenerating thei rpopulations around 2040. Africa, by contrast, has half of all the people under 20 in the world living in it today and those ot these who survive to old age will, of course, all be approaching their sixties in 2040.

The current crop of rich world elderly are mostly in for a shock. Few have made the requisite savings, at a personal or national level. Low returns to capital have recently accentuated problems, and poor performance in future will precipitate crises that are simply unaffordable. Thus, those elderly who can will have to work. Biotechnology may help with this. Some may well care for their older or less able peers.

Nevertheless, working is not a choice for many old people and there will be a huge burden to support. Additional medical costs, perhaps generated by new capabilities and further life extension, will tend to make this cost even worse. There are guesses that the all-in cost of supporting the elderly could rise from its current figure of about ten percent of output to 25-30% of GNP. That is an immense shift, which has to be matched by corresponding efficiency gains if the nations in question are not to get relatively poorer. But how, in an educated and tightly knit world, do you become more efficient at a rate which is relatively much faster than your peers, unburdened in this way?

The cost of care may be mitigated by guest workers from low income countries. Guest workers are useful if they (a) add more value than they cost - and leave it in the country as tax and consumption - and (b), if they do not compete with the elderly worker. The best guess is that Europe will need tens of millions of guest workers just to cope with the elderly by the mid-2020s. This is mass migration at levels that exceed anything in history, and the spread of attitudes - and bad experiences - will be bound to have global political impacts.

Second, the elderly vote. You note that the Traditionalists in the rich nations are predominantly old. Thus, there is a built-in anti-progressive, anti-internationalist element to rich world politics that plays at best to YF and offers handles for the forces that lead to FC.

Third, the portfolio of types will shift as the world becomes richer, more educated, more informed and - of course - older. You allude to this but you do not note its consequences. I can see a much more 'mature' world, in the sense that teenage girls use the word about boyfriends. One that is less likely to shoot first, to drive too fast, to get into scrapes. One has to recall that people who are a generation away from subsistence agriculture are conservative for very good reasons. If they made a mistake a generation ago, at best they lost their lands, at worst they starved. They are wary people, analytical of their best advantage, suspicious of quick solutions and 'wide boys'. Four billion of these people will change the nature of the global narrative, perhaps? IE could we have a tranquil sort of FC; or perhaps YF on tranquillisers?

Response 5: I think the numerical modelling at the end is dangerous and should be removed. You say that it 'may go beyond the given', I say it went over the edge. But the rest of the paper is very thought provoking.

One area I think you neglect is the possible reform of democracy towards extremely different systems of participation and representation. One of the great dangers that you flag is the appeal to the "middle of the matrix" of simplistic and populist solutions. In my experience as a civil servant, what tended to filter out silly measures was the checks and balances embodied in a professional group of intelligent people within the service itself. This was, of course, parodied in the Yes Minister series. It is not a model for the future. Nevertheless it is, in my observation, one thing to thump a tub and get a roar of applause, and quite another to face a reasonable, informed group of people who plainly want to help you, but who are honour-bound to be resolute in pointing out the implications of an unwise option.

It is precisely for this reason, perhaps, that recent administrations have excluded the British civil service from policy debate, preferring to use them as executive agents once the debate with hand-chosen 'special advisors' is complete. These are paid to say 'Yes Minister' and, consequently, do so with assiduity. The Press, as outsiders and driven by the need to sell advertising space with adversarial copy, partially take up some of the slack.

Democracy in OMG - I assume that it is a democratic environment? - has to form policy in a manner which is the opposite of populist. It needs careful, systems-wide thought, it needs evidence; but it also needs quiet debate that is aimed to solve the problem, not depose the current leadership. A Green thought in a green shade, indeed.

Doing this is an innately elite activity. It is elite not because people are excluded from it by a clique - although God knows that does happen - but because in order to be able to play, you need to have the right knowledge and the ability to articulate it in a form that others can absorb. You need insight as to the connections that ramify out from the evolving issue. You need a position of trust within the team and, above all, you need to have good judgment - that intangible consequence of personal experience which somehow allows you to deliver the right remark at the right time.

I am not saying that the future of democracy is a re-formed set of cliques. What I do assert is that there is potential for better policy processes, and these processes have, as innate requirement, the inclusion of quiet voices - and the de facto exclusion of both the braying voice and the representative who is adversarial solely for reasons of career and party, rather than from considerations of insight and analysis. The vast number of educated people who will be in play in the scenario period, the communications systems, the many often specialised layers of state all seem to point in this direction.

The law, to take an example which I understand reasonably well, has formal systems of feedback to Parliament and the executive, but also operates with a very strong informal internal linkage. This entails networks of friends and colleagues, people who meet and speak seriously about serious matters. This happens continuously and with, I believe, great consequence to how the law evolves, its coherence and the policy advice which practitioners can offer. A great deal of law in 2040 will come not from national legislatures but from international bodies and accords. As an example of this, current European law impinges increasingly on the British legal corpus, doing so without the mediation of Parliament. Consequently, the need for informed interpretation of this into the peculiar British legal and cultural context becomes that much more important. Surely the infrastructure of 2040 will support this and very much more?

Response 6: This text says to me that the subject of these scenarios is 'transition'. Or the consequences of failure to make such a transition. The transition is not about any one thing - sustainability, public health, either political, military or financial stability - but about our growing up and taking charge of the systems through which we live.

Your perceptive assessment of sub-narratives - and how my meager vocabulary has grown with this exercise! - points to groups who express what you call 'systems concern'. These grow to be a third of the population in the wealthy countries, but are of course a minority globally. Response 4 notes that the world will be richer and better educated in 2040: at a global average of 5% aai, 4.3 times richer; and following UN projections, essentially literate, numerate and with access to the world's information bases. By 2040, what then passes for your mobile phone will offer relevant contextual advice, interpretation, warnings and 'learning from mistakes' to pretty much anyone who can afford to carry one. That will be just about everybody, I suggest. Measures of global IQ have risen continually since measures began, perhaps reflecting education of populations to date. My experience over a longish life is that the people I deal with today are simply more adept, more insightful about their own lives, than those in my childhood. Such people had seldom been overseas except to fight a war, had no sense that they could take charge of their lives and were, indeed, driven to repress people who stood out: "tall poppies get cut".

Thus, it's fair to say that those who currently live in the middle part of your brown, orange and yellow chart will move rapidly to the right of it - will become more 'yellow'. The poor nations become more orange, albeit at a pace that is diluted by their population growth rates. One could look to a world where something like a fifth of the population have gone Yellow, if not Green.

So, the outlook is not at all bad. I quite like Response 3 for its ambition. However, the three cases are not what I see at all. The first one, a sort of Iraq-goes-global systems Neocon world is possibly realistic for extreme situations but of low probability, in my book. The second one lacks pizzazz, if you will excuse me. It's a dilute version of what I've just written, and needs the colours intensified. Twist that knob! The third feels a world grown old and cold and weary, which just doesn't sit with the potential, the people, the technology.

Can I do better? Well, try these. I'm going to try to keep each one to a sentence. (You failed: Ed.)

Scenario 1: Middle-late onset, YF world adopts an increasingly Structured Concern narrative, particularly around the middle classes who find their status consumption goods increasingly focused on intangibles and on positional goods, rather than material possessions: where the house is and how pleasing, not how big or grand it is. Intangibles are about broad comfort factors - the safety, tranquility, cleanliness of an area (nation, social field of connection). Solutions are systematic, networked into other systems. Intangible feel-goods are also connected with community's psychic health: are others happy? Fulfilled? Exciting and excited? The East is keen on purity: are the people I deal with pure, in that equally indefinable and intangible way? So, heads and hearts all push for sweeping systems 'tidiness', stuff should work, be it climate or neighbourliness, my societies capacity for fun or the freedom from fear of being killed by someone for reasons I do not understand. Thus, OMG arises from a wonky kind of consumerism.

Scenario 2: Same environment as 1, but here driven by economic prowess. So: accessing freely interacting extremely smart people in an environment that predisposes them to give of their best is the key to economic success; and firms have to provide this or die. Societies have to provide the enablers of that or die as well. So there is a model of what makes for success which has Structured Concern built into it and which is pushed on firms by investors as hard as Just Cut Costs was pushed in the infamous 1990s. From firms, it moves as a model of success to states, and encompasses some of the things that were said about democracy and policy formation in the excellent Response 5. Once again, a gradual move into OMG without anyone noticing, working out from a commercial core.

Hey, I have just written two sides of the same scenario. Perhaps that is a reflection that OMG will need - and IMHO, get - a social and a commercial push. It is just the right way to go, the science is just too powerful to ignore, the people too educated and rich.

A bit of a muddle but I hope it's good for your project. I'd better sign this as True Believer.

Response 7: Identifying the most illuminating axes is a major issue. The first step in this direction is probably to define more precisely what 'people dimensions' in the third scenario will look like. If these boil down to "more of the same" there is no point in explicitly taking them into account. Hence this scenario should incorporate major socio-cultural change - e.g. different social fabric, new paradigms, widespread saturation effects, new world order, world citizens, total priority for sustainable behaviour, powerful new links between man and machine. Whether the 'people elements' will be a force for good or whether they will be a major barrier to necessary change, is a matter of choice. I think it may be more interesting to go for 'good news'-developments (although not as good as "Oh My Gawd !") instead of for never-ending war, social collapse, pervasive insecurity, hi-tech dictatorship, and new barbarians. Both options can be pursued.

Assuming that you want to define two axes, representing the two most important scenario variables, it can still be decided later which, and how many, scenarios are to be developed. In order to be concrete, I attach a suggestion for such axes.

One axis indicates the extent to which change will (have to) be generated:

  1. by 'officials' and institutions
  2. by the world, society, or people in general i.e. in a rather bottom-up amorphous way.

In my view, this is a genuine uncertainty, which has an impact on almost all variables you mentioned in your scenario documents so far.

The second axis could then be linked with the outcome, the end result. Here I assume that you have no problem with some scenarios being obviously more attractive and successful than other. In that case, we might define a second axis of which one end points to a growing paralysis (followed by "everyone for himself"), and the other end to an optimistic perspective, where the world, helped by technology and people of good will, finds ever more innovative solutions at the same time that the problems become more urgent.

In the first of the charts, I indicated how these four quadrants might, text-wise, be filled. The second chart shows possible names of scenarios that could be developed 'in the spirit' of the four quadrants.

Finally, the third chart shows how the scenario titles might fit into the diagram. All this is obviously very tentative.

Response 8: This is a real step forward, and a few aspects of this step might become new anchor points. In particular :

A 'vertical' axis that indicates 'ability to manage change', 'manageable levels of global complexity', or 'manageability' of future challenges in general. The key parameter is in this case not complexity per se, but the balance between the challenge of complexity and our ability to cope with complexity. Which reflects "our ability to cope". (EG very much the vertical dimension of Response 7, Ed.)

'People dimensions' figure explicitly in, at least, the OMG/ third scenario. In which way they figure in the scenario, what makes them into a major driving force, and how they will impact future development, is the most interesting, challenging issue, but we need a plausible version of the various possibilities.

Interesting is also your conclusion that 'only OMG shows any promise of a lasting solution'. But that would suggest that, for the very long term, there is only one scenario. I think that the other two scenarios have a long term follow-up as well, although it will not be a world in equilibrium but a world moving from one crisis to the next.

In my view, an essential part of the long term OMG-scenario is that it will not, and cannot, be imposed from above, however many strategy meetings the leaders of the world will devote to this topic. The world needs institutions and leadership, but to keep things together and avoid things getting out of hand - not to tell the people what is 'modern' or how they should feel and behave. Therefore I connected the OMG-scenario in my chart with the "amorphous change" side of the horizontal axis.

Response 9: For what it's worth, I am extremely skeptical about the willingness of societies to consciously take themselves in a measured, monolithic way towards a systems-solving version of OMG. The grand structured approach is oversold by everyone from environmentalists to EU-crats.

If OMG happens, it will only be through challenge-and-response, and some very rough edges will have to be knocked off first. What does the knocking - malfunctioning systems, what your text calls 'early onset' - or some Neocon-equivalent crusade for greenery is not clear. The former gets into the 'Martian Landing' territory in which I wonder what you can say that is useful, whilst the latter is frankly incredible as a stand-alone. Perhaps the first could be followed by the second is in what Response 3 discussed as a scenario.

Response 10: I agree it's extremely hard to get into Oh My Gawd in a concerted manner: "let's all get politically systematic". If you believe the doom-o-crats, however, without a concerted response to all manner of stuff, we are - er - doomed. I rather buy that at the military-security level: the technology will just give the inevitable special interest dingbats too big a baseball to hit with. We discussed this before: a global system of security becomes essential when dangerous technologies become dispersed and have low barriers to entry. With such a system must come if not trust, then something that generates equivalently-tested probity and predictability of intention. If we install what is in effect a global mutual intelligence network, then we also bring together vast arrays of other things - rights to insight and information, access and the denial of national privilege.

Why would anyone with power want to support or fund that? Well, that is what the IEA do right now, as do a host of more covert surveillance systems that I am not going to name. National collaboration around terrorism, around communications oversight, border control and so forth are all such system in embryo. But note that commercial systems have often gone much further in the name of customer service, credit worthiness, commercial intelligence. Petabytes of information are available, and everyone leaves an audit trail that can easily be accessed by those with permissions and tools.

Response 10 b: (I have cut this into two posts. Ed)

Let me jump to a slightly different theme. By 2040, information about individuals, companies and so forth will be general and pervasive. There will be no privacy, or what little privacy that exists will be fiercely guarded and be, perhaps, one of the intangible things which people value, as was mentioned above. Status may therefore equate to a degree of privacy: proles are completely exposed to a general light that shows up every detail of their lives, like ants on concrete, whilst higher status people may be able to dodge in and out of the full sun. Indeed, reputation management may become a major industry, as each middle class individual 'combs' their data universe to put the best possible coiffure on it and to tug out the dandruff, snarls, nits and straw.

Your reputation will follow you everywhere, and bad behaviour will blemish it. By analogy, social networks in medieval times treated 'having a good name, being a man of honour' as passports to social networks, good marriage or commercial success. Some of this will be involuntary - the general sun, shining on the ant - other parts may be elective. It is likely that the cellphone and the credit card, the identity card and the passport will all fold together into some super-secure technology that is tied to you as a physical being: a "wristwatch", or who knows? Something embedded at birth. This will identify you and either directly or through systems evocation by third parties, summon up your reputation and credit worthiness, plus anything else that you may want to put into public domain, or the domain of particular handshakes that pass your personal thresholds of trustworthiness, interest, status equality. At a basic level, this allows you access to gated facilities, to elite shops, to desirable clubs and coffee houses as much as fine clothes and the right accent did a century ago.

To lose such a reputation would be catastrophic, much as public failure as a CEO wrecks your future earning prospects. Such things lead to risk minimisation, self-policing. They also enable displays of social worthiness: "look how green, how charitable I am". This provides a consumerist motive for worthiness, all motives to behave in an OMG way, of course.

Response 11: You say that "only OMG shows any promise of a lasting solution", but this is because - like me, and the rest of your network - you are a Structured Concern person.

At least as I understand the archetypes, most of the other outcomes that will feel pretty good to much of the world's population, controlling most of the world's resources.

The difference between what you call OMG and what you call YF will seem very small as far as Sven Sixpack is concerned. It will matter a great deal to a Sudanese peasant, but Sven will not distinguish closely between his government sending a gunboat to Sudan to support the path to OMG, and sending one to suppress the negative consequences of YF or FC. (In fact, can we tell the difference?)

Response 12: This all seems very hung up on Saving the World. My focus is a bit closer to home. What are we going to do to stabilise the financial system?

This figure shows US M&A since 1950, making the dramatic expansion - to nearly a third of US GNP ! - extremely clear. There are lots of closer-to-home pathologies to worry about.


Has Obama cured bubbles? Can anyone cure bubbles? I suspect that the best antidote to the madness of crowds is :

  1. To make it clear that absolutely no-one is coming to the rescue, so tend your money wisely and,
  2. To shout Bubble! Bubble! in a politician-independent manner as soon as the very vestige of one is sighted.

Bubbles can't be eliminated. They are endemic to any system that allows credit and human nature. All we can do is to try periodically to shoo bubbles away from some critical stuff.

I agree that grand, structured approaches would indeed be 'better' at dealing with some problems - I just don't think they'll be implemented in time if they have to have a popular following. And popular 'solutions' are not always the right ones, as with the overweight accounting and penalisation of boards that followed the Enron-Worldcom scandals. And well-supported initiatives of this sort often actually go nowhere (do you remember Live Aid? Kyoto? The Lisbon Agenda?). So yes, some of us will end up fixing some of the symptoms, under duress.

Response 13: I was digging in the old Chatham House Forum material for something quite different - it's still a mine of good things to do with clients, even after a decade! - and I found something that we developed then. We were thinking about values, and specifically about - and as I recall, doing so in consultation with giddy heights of the New Labour project.

The story was about the kinds of people that policy had to deal with. We asserted that values were either derived internally - from my deep beliefs - or they came from from my view of what others were thinking. This was one of the axes: where people got their value systems. Independent of this dimension, we saw the population divided into people who believed that good things, things which should be treasured, were only to be earned, versus those who thought that the majority of such could be bought.

That gave the matrix which I show below. New Labour were, of course, Bossies and set up Castles as their Tory enemy and Consumers as their friends.

The reason to table this is that it seems to me that the right of the figure defines the group from which change will come, and the left from where it is resisted. This will happen unless it is:

(a) endorsed by the narrative 'what everyone is doing', and

(b) provides real and tangible benefits, or avoids real and immediate harm.

The Quolies feel all manner of things, but I am extremely aware that they do not feel the same way that I do. I like a field of flowers in Summer. Some of them go way, way further and feel it as God's unity on Earth, others as an ironic comment on the inevitability of death; and so on. What I am trying to say is that these are experiments in thinking, which have no direct affect, but which trickle through and so make the new narrative, and the Bossies push it forward.

Response 14: What we have thought about all of this is as the following. You have got three big sub-narratives: Traditionalists, Consumers and the Systems people. They make a triangle, like this:

We have made gray the space between Traditionalists and the the people of Structured Concern for their little contact through the narrative - although they may have much friction in the real life. Traditionalists want mostly to become Consumers (but with a lot of baggage they do not want to lose behind.) Consumers do not really want to be of the Structured Concern people but they elect governments that think that way, and their children think that way too. So they are pulled along. So we show the arrow being different.

Now, the real world will favour some parts of the triangle. For example, it could not have been that the US approximated itself to the Consumer sub-narrative before the situation in the Sixties allowed this: technology, wealth, educated people and corporations big enough to deliver consumer things. It is of course more complex than this, and everything supports everything else, but only this mixture could let to grow the Consumer sub narrative.

We are thinking about real worlds in which two kinds of things are happening at different times. First one, the systems will confront us soon or late. Second, we can be working together or we can be not cooperating. That gives us this:

One should start to read this from "now". In the short term, there is only the trip to YF. Nobody wants anything else. You cannot go from now to OMG or FC directly in the narrative, whatever may be the case in the world of the actual. But, if there is an early crisis, we will be torn from YF to "Enforced OMG" because states react to the emergency and lead it forward; for example, handing a pandemic.

But the Traditional bit of the triangle is angry there, and the Consumers are not getting what they want, so we end up in FC unless we can quickly get back to YF. The Structural sub narrative has got nothing to say here because it is the enemy to both of the others. So it is a tug of war, and probably one bit of the world ends up together at one end of it and the rest scattered down the rope.

If through events there is not too much pressure, the commerce of YF means that we get a more linked-up world. Traditional sub narratives become more like the Consumer. Richer people are also more likely to use the Structural sub narrative. From that, we get a gradual climb up to cooperation, and the "smooth OMG". Maybe it should be the 'natural OMG'? ('Organic'? Ed.) Yes, you have still many people who they use using the Traditional narrative, but they are now scattered down the rope and the Structural and Consumer narratives are clustered at the other end.

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