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The scenarios.

The scenarios.

There were two scenarios that were web-published in 2000/01 from the 1999/00 activity: Pushing the Edge and Renewed Foundations. These are summarised below. An overview is available here, and the scenarios are compared against each other here.

Pushing the Edge.

More detail here.

The explosive growth of knowledge, of trained people and of connectivity create a period in which all of the aspirations expressed by capital markets in the Nineties are fulfilled. A glow of prosperity settles over, in particular, the USA. Science performs astonishing feats, and commerce is not far behind in making a technical reality of this potential. There is a view that government is a matter of competent administration, that most issues will settle themselves if exposed to a proper incentive structure and the fashion is, therefore, increasingly laisse faire. However, by 2010, cracks are appearing in this structure. They stem from two centres.

One of these is the European societies with high levels of elderly people, notably those with poor pension provisions, such as Italy, Austria, Germany and France. Japan has similar problems and not dissimilar responses. Here, the golden glow of economic success is far from evenly distributed. The prevalent view of technological astonishment is highly negative. The politics of these regions are polarised between those who see the need to accommodate to fast change and a rejectionist, traditionalist group. These nations find themselves increasingly out of step with the cutting edge nations.

The second set of crack stem from the inadequacy of institutions to deal with what is being thrust upon them. Regulation is put in place to deal with complex, interconnected issues which appears in retrospect to have been increasing clumsy and, where appropriate, rapidly superseded. Litigation increases, a plethora of complex regulation is enacted, growth slows.

In the period after 2010, the major powers find themselves both at odds with each other politically and unable to cope with the stresses of change that are generated internally. Little attention is given to the emergent world and the poor world, save as partners in commerce. International institutions do not develop. However, the use of uncontained but dangerous technologies, the theft of intellectual property - the bane of the knowledge economy - and remote criminality all make the world a difficult place; and the widespread possession of offensive software, biological and other capabilities make it a dangerous one. Environmental issues are both the cause of much distress and, in places of conflict, but also something which the machinery is inadequate to address in an international arena.

Renewed Foundations

More detail here.

Capital market expectations are thwarted in the period after 2000 and growth is historically slow. The problem that lies behind this depression is twofold. The 'old' economy is in trouble. In some areas, a flood of low cost goods emanating from the low wage areas have commoditised whole industries. Process innovations that are made to heighten efficiency seem to be exported very swiftly. Productivity drives throw the least able into direct competition with low wage areas.

The 'new' industries are, however, failing to deliver on their promise. An innovative treadmill generates new products but not much profit, and incidentally take all firms into what the public see as alarming areas.

The second source of failure is in the public sector. States are consuming in the order of half of all added value, and directing four-fifths of this into welfare. The squeeze lessens investment in the public sector.

An elderly population views all of this with alarm. Their assets are not growing, state-funded systems of age care are evidently failing and politicians seem able to do nothing about this. Companies seem unable to find their way out of the impasse, yet they engage in frightening activities, many of them doing so in the poor nations, away from regulatory oversight. Activism growth through networks and across nations, demanding action.

Some nations are doing rather well for themselves. Despite modest demographic problems, these are building their economies from skilled people doing skilled jobs, operating in collaboration across all manner of boundaries.

This approach plays poorly with the nations which have evolved a more confrontational, impersonal or pragmatic style. Nevertheless, economic figures show that this approach is proving effective. The parallel success of knowledge management techniques in some parts of commerce is noted. It is seen that the approach can be lifted entire and placed into the public domain.

Once the implications of this linkage are understood, the application of these techniques spreads quickly. The successes which are scored are impressive. A cadre of several hundred million practitioners develops across the industrial world, inter-linked and sharing a common viewpoint on the world.

This is, however, a world in which relatively few feel that they have a 'place'. Communities have faded. Austere and impersonal systems confront people whenever they touch the public sector, and do so particularly in areas of claimancy and dependency. By contrast, a rich and focused 'alternative' exists in the electronic media, where interest groups and enthusiasms emerge and blossom. Mass activism, activism as a hobby and hobby politics grow as an educated cadre vents its frustrations. It finds an ideal structure with which to interact in the network of knowledge managing expertise to which we have already referred.

What was once difficult, therefore, can become knotted into tangled thickets of the impossible. Complexity management demands delegation, collaboration, networks, knowledge, a systems view, plans, regulatory permissions, mutual consultation. All of this essential equipment, however, creates openings which are exploited by activism. The clean, rational world of expert knowledge-users is increasing required to justify itself. Getting permission to act is central to success in a world where veto can block any step in a fragile chain of regulation and legal process.

Where this is adequately managed, however, all see that this is micro-democracy at work. Its expansion offers positive engagement to many and excludes only those with nothing useful to say. It has power, in that the strategic insights which it tables define the options which will be followed. It ties together industry and consumer, state and the private sector, knowledge holders and knowledge users. Most of all, it generates a means to break away from commoditisation, creating a skill pool that only the industrial nations can deploy.

The process of full bottom-up integration is, however, by no means complete in every industrial country by 2020. Some nations have taken huge strides, whilst others - still battling demographics and state deficits, still suffering rejectionist fits from their disappointed elderly - have hardly taken the first steps.

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