Foresight and Strategy 2019

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Past copies of Foresight and Strategy (formerly eSAMI) our monthly e-newsletter, are available. For other years go to Foresight and Strategy

May 2019

We continue our work with the EC Research and Innovation Directorate on foresight processes. A sub-product of this work will be a deeper understanding of the forces affecting 10 different regions of the world. We have completed a first version of a report on horizon scanning and key emerging issues and uncertainties. The final version will be produced in July. If this is of interest to you, please contact Jonathan on

The Control Risks and Self-Assessment Forum organised by SAMI Fellow Paul Moxey met on 30th April with a session on risk and culture and their effect on governance. See our blog for a report on the session. The Forum is looking to meet more regularly – offers of help are welcome. Please contact Paul at

We are also finalising a range of scenarios for use by the Environment Agency in their consideration of the impacts of flooding.

Two Books for Futurists to enjoy.

Empty Planet: The Shock of Global Population Decline, by Darrell Bricker and John Ibbotson challenges the UN’s population projections for the 21st century, arguing that the likely population change will be lower than even the UN’s “low” projection. The authors visit six continents, and show evidence that the factors driving falling birth rates – education of women, access to birth control, urbanisation – once established become permanent. The authors write that today 24 states are already experiencing population decline and that the number will soon rise to 36, including Japan, South Korea, Spain, Italy and most of Eastern Europe. Many others are seeing their falling birth rates masked by the impact of increased longevity among the old. Only in a few regions – notably Africa and the Indian sub-continent – are populations still rising, and even there, the signs of deceleration are apparent. A world in which many regions have aging and shrinking populations creates new economic and social challenges. The authors argue that those best adapted to inward migration will be best able to absorb the impact of the change.

The New Silk Roads: the Present and Future of the World, by Peter Frankopan argues a convincing case that China is not merely seeking to influence the routes of world trade, but also seeking to shift the polarities of global economic power so that the East replaces the West as the hub of global trade. The New Silk Roads spread out from China across the resource-rich countries of Central Asia, through South and South East Asia and throughout Africa. China is helping many countries in those regions to build their infrastructures – roads railways, power generation and supply. China is even active in South America, and the Silk Road has also reached Piraeus in Greece and Italy, Slovenia and Croatia are also considering joining.

It is interesting to read the two books in parallel, as they almost give the reader a ready- made pair of scenario axes: what happens to China’s global ambitions when its population begins to age rapidly (from 2030) and then fall in size for the rest of the century, back down from 1.4 billion to 1 billion, or even fewer?

Executive Education

We will be running our two-day Futures Thinking course again on 23rd and 24th September. Feedback from the March session was very positive: “very interesting”, “covered a wide range of techniques”.

To register an interest, please contact We have a number of other courses in our portfolio – go to for more information.

We also offer bespoke in-house courses for larger groups.

Futures Issues

  • Amazon employees listen in to Alexa . To help the system improve its interpretation of the words it hears, employees listen in to what you say. This can cause ethical issues when what they hear is disturbing – your privacy versus stopping crime.
  • A global survey of nearly 10 million people by UN MYWorld aims to capture people’s voices, priorities and views. The top desires are for a good education, better healthcare, better job opportunities and honest and responsive government. Interestingly men put jobs ahead of health, and women the opposite.
  • Researchers have implemented a prototype quantum device that can generate and analyze a quantum superposition of possible futures. Using a novel quantum algorithm, the possible outcomes of a decision process are encoded as a superposition of different photon locations – no need for foresight any more?
  • Robot swarms help precision farming . Using a large number of cloud-controlled, battery-operated, small, identical robots in a swarmenables smooth running of the job (tillage, planting, pesticides, fertilizers, harvest) even in the event of the failure of a single unit. Their light weight results in a high level of safety and negligible soil compaction
  • Energy Vault is a venture that stores excess solar farm electricity by using giant cranes to lift and stack 35-metric-ton bricks, thus storing it as potential energy. When the energy is later needed, software tells the system to lower the bricks, and that spins generators to send electricity back into the grid. The system can respond within a millisecond. India’s Tata Power is the company’s first announced customer.
  • AI can detect depression in children’s speech patterns, potentially providing a fast and easy way of diagnosing conditions that are difficult to spot and often overlooked in young people

Our Blogs

In the last month our blogs have looked at how activist shareholders can be agents for change as well as how risk management can impact organisational culture – both aspects of corporate governance that boards need to think about as they develop their strategies. Alongside these we have completed our series of blogs on Patricia Lustig and Gill Ringland’s book on Megatrends with a look at what’s happening in biotechnology and also looking at some of their conclusions .

We are always on the lookout for more contributions to our blog, so if you have attended any relevant conferences or have something to say about foresight please do get in touch with Cathy Dunn –

April 2019

Notre Dame: an analogy

By the time you read this, the recent fire at Notre Dame Cathedral will have spawned countless obscure analogies. Permit us to spawn another: about the importance of futures thinking.

The Paris fire brigade had a clear plan: get the people out, get the portable treasures out, get the less portable treasures out, save, if possible, the building. It's a plan that seems to have worked very well - the loss to the patrimony of France and the world is far less than it looked on that terrible evening.

But the plan is reactive: what do we do if there is a fire? It was not preventative - how we do we ensure there is no fire? These debates have lost sight of the thing that - we now realise - matters: the building's very survival.

This is exactly why we use foresight tools. We use the SAMI 7 Questions technique to identify what matters and build agreement. We use foresight thinking to determine what might happen and what we do if it does. And we use all of our techniques to identify what must be done.

Notre Dame is an example of what happens when a lack of foresight combines with a lack of agreement combines with a lack of planning. It was avoidable. It is thanks to the bravery of the men and women of the Sapeurs Pompier that the building and its priceless artefacts were saved. Clear thinking, structured questioning and foresight could have prevented then having to risk their lives at all.

The analogy is obvious. If you don't want to have to fight a fire in your organisation, think, question, plan for alternatives and take action. Ask the advice of professionals - which in this case, means us. We may be able to save you before the first flame is even a spark.

Scenario news:

In a remarkably strong piece, Mark Carney argued that the financial sector must be at the heart of tackling climate change . A report by the Network for Greening the Financial System (NGFS) – a coalition of 34 central banks – has in its first recommendation that we should “ensure financial firms are adequately addressing the financial risks from climate change, including by conducting scenario analysis to assess their strategic resilience to climate change policy”.

The Chartered Insurance Institute and SAMI Consulting project to explore how the digitalisation of medical records can improve access to protection was referenced at a recent “protech” conference as being a key component in moving the industry forward. Contact Richard Walsh for more details.

Professor Paul Moxey’s talk on delivering training on strategy, risk management and corporate governance for corporate secretaries from Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine was well-received.

The report on the EU-OSHA workshop on “Foresight on new and emerging OSH risks associated with digitalisation by 2025” held in Oslo last November has now been published. SAMI created the scenarios for this project, and the Oslo workshop was part of an ongoing communication exercise.

The Control Risks and Self-Assessment Forum organised by SAMI Fellow Paul Moxey is meeting on 30th April with a session on risk and culture. The event is sold out, but a report will appear in SAMI communications in due course.

The Government white paper on online harms is a global first. Companies will have to fulfil their new legal duties or face the consequences and “will still need to be compliant with the overarching duty of care even where a specific code does not exist, for example assessing and responding to the risk associated with emerging harms or technology”. Is your futures thinking sufficiently geared to “emerging harms or technology”?

Futures Issues

  • In a recent speech, Guy Debelle, Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia, discussed the impact of climate change on the economy . He said we need to think of climate change as an ongoing trend rather than as cyclical weather events; how the frequency of extreme weather event will affect the insurance industry; and the transition path to a less carbon-intensive world.
  • Solar Radiation Management (SRM) is a methodology at the experimental stage that aims at reducing the temperature of the atmosphere –thus fighting global warming– by blocking part of the solar energy that reaches the Earth through particle spreading like volcanic ash. What could possibly go wrong?
  • A US company AIME has built an artificial intelligence platform is to identify the location of the next disease outbreak up of dengue fever or zika to three months before it occurs.
  • Engineers are turning to social insects like ants and bees as bio-inspiration for how to manage swarm drones . Swarms could be especially useful for doing jobs such as environmental monitoring, which requires coverage of huge, varied and sometimes hazardous areas
  • Apps are beginning help with mental health issues . The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy found that 61% of practitioners already use digital platforms in their therapeutic work, ranging from messaging to video conferencing. Anonymised online services make it easier for people to share concerns and also seem to reach some people from BME [black and minority ethnic] and minority groups because of stigma around cultural assumptions of mental health.

Our Blogs

Since the last edition of our newsletter we have published a wide range of blogs. We continued with several in our series on Patricia Lustig and Gill Ringland’s book on Megatrends, firstly considering the trends that are transforming energy , then looking at some of the implications of our increasingly connected world and what impacts new technology could have . Alongside these we have also reviewed some recent publications – World Economic Forum’s Global Risks report and we ended the month with a look at the recent Cover Magazine Forum on AI in the insurance industry .

March 2019

The Chartered Insurance Institute and SAMI Consulting are launching a research project, headed up by SAMI's Richard Walsh, to explore how the digitalisation of medical records can improve access to protection. The new research project will explore how underwriting data, digital records and health data collected on apps can be used to benefit customers.

Jonathan Blanchard Smith’s talk to the Chartered Quality Institute’s London branch was well received, and reviewed here. There was also an article published in their magazine Quality World.

The BP Energy Outlook review for 2019 considered four scenarios for carbon emissions. They considered that renewable would be the world’s main energy source by 2040. Nonetheless, in only one of the scenarios do we get close to meeting the IPPC emission levels necessary for limiting average temperature rise to 1.5°C. Look at our blogpost for more detail.

We ran our two-day Futures Thinking Workshop earlier this week. We plan to run it again in June and September. If you are interested please contact for more information.

In April, Professor Paul Moxey will be in Amsterdam delivering training on secretarial practice, strategy, risk management and corporate governance for corporate secretaries from Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine.

Executive Education

We also have a wider Executive Education portfolio. As well as the two-day workshop, we offer a half-day overview of futures tools and techniques, and a more in-depth residential “bootcamp” at Wolfson College, Oxford.

A second strand of courses is aimed at board directors and senior leadership teams: “Making better decisions - removing bias”, “What risk management really means”, “How to deal with constant change”, and “Risk literacy for boards”.

Contact Jonathan on for more information and our latest brochure.

Futures Issues

A Pentagon report reveals that more than two-thirds of operationally critical military installations are threatened by the effects of climate change over the next 20 years, including repeated flooding and wildfire.

The Pentagon’s first AI strategy was also announced, covering everything from intelligence gathering to predicting maintenance problems. Although the US has blocked a UN ban on autonomous weapons, the current strategy claims to keep a human in the loop at all times.

Meanwhile, U.K. Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson announced plans for “squadrons of network enabled drones capable of confusing and overwhelming enemy air defences” . Depending on how the program evolves, it might involve the fielding of a" target="blank"> true unmanned combat air vehicle.

The NFU’s “Future of Food 2040” report identifies the use of drones, sensors and robots in farming, as well as some more futuristic developments such as 3-D printed food, in-vitro meat and insect protein.

Belgian scientists have combined solar panels with generating and storing hydrogen as a more efficient and cheaper solar energy storage system than batteries. An array of 20 panels and four cubic meters of pressurized storage would meet the energy and heating needs of a household throughout the year.

An analysis of why civilizations collapse suggests a combination of climate change, environmental degradation, inequality and oligarchy, complexity and just bad luck. Looking at the signs today shows worryingly high scores on all those dimensions.

Our Blogs

The last month’s blogs have covered a variety of topics. We started with a review of a conversation we’d had with Tony Czarnecki of Sustensis to follow up on some of his ideas on superintelligence and the Singularity . We then returned to the topic of the moment – Brexit – to look at some ‘uncomfortable truths’ surrounding the issue. Following this we continued with our series on Patricia Lustig and Gill Ringland’s book on Megatrends with a look at the issue of mobility. We ended the month with a two-part blog on issues surrounding governance, accounting, audits and incentives looking at how some of the recent failures can inform future Board decision making.

February 2019

With partners IFOK, Cadmus and The Danish Board of Technology Foundation, SAMI have begun work on a project for the EC Research and Innovation Directorate. The project, scheduled to run until June 2020, is a study on building and piloting a Strategic Intelligence Foresight System for future R&I Framework Programmes. Outputs may have wider applications, enabling us to help clients develop their own foresight systems.

As an input to its regular beanfeast in Davos, the World Economic Forum produced its annual Global Risk Report . This survey of global organisations’ views of upcoming risks highlights environmental risks as the top 3 by impact and likelihood: extreme weather events, failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation and natural disasters.

NESTA on the other hand took a more positive view of 2019, forecasting amongst its NESTA top ten predictions : robo-lawyers making legal services cheaper, major advances in microbiome-derived health and assistive technology transforming the lives of disabled people.

Long-time SAMI collaborator Patricia Lustig features in the latest edition of Providentia’s Prospectus of “Futuristas’” forecasts with several of the key megatrends from her and Gill Ringland’s recently published book.

SAMI Fellow Professor Paul Moxey was quoted in “Board Agenda” on the “thankless task” of audit committee members: “thorough investigation of what audit committees did, or did not do, after a failure such as Carillion, should focus audit committee members’ minds”.

Executive Education

We still have places left on our two-day Futures Thinking Workshop on 18th/19th March 2019 - contact for more information.

We also have a wider Executive Education portfolio that includes courses on foresight techniques and Board governance. Contact Jonathan on if you are interested.

Futures Issues

If cyber-hacking hasn’t worried you enough, now comes bio-hacking : encoding malware in a strand of DNA.

Deloitte projects an Electric Vehicle 'tipping point' when price parity with internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles is reached in 2024. Growing consumer demand for greener vehicles, together with growing regulation in polluted urban areas of the use of ICE vehicles will swing the balance in favour of EVs.

US health insurer Aetna has designed an app in collaboration with Apple to help its customers manage their health with the use of an Apple Watch. The Attain app will provide Aetna members personalized goals, track their daily activity levels, recommend healthy actions, and reward them for taking these actions to improve their well-being with offers such as waived payments for the Apple smartwatch. There are no plans – as yet – to link its use to lower insurance payments.

The Consumer Electronics Show produced its usual collection of weird, wonderful and downright useless toys again this month. Anyone want an IoT bed for their dog? Or a robotic cuddle pillow? Or a suitcase that follows you? (Any Discworld readers out there?).

South Korea’s birth rate is catastrophically low , at less than 1 (2.1 is necessary as a replacement rate). The population could be a quarter of its current size in just two generations. Birth rates are falling elsewhere in the world too – eg in Nordic countries.

Our Blogs

We started our blogging year with a quick look ahead at some trends for 2019 and then continued the series of blogposts on Patricia Lustig and Gill Ringland’s book on ‘Megatrends and How to Survive Them’ with a look at the multi-polar world and also the topic of global limits . These were interspersed with a post view about China and what issues it might face during the coming decades.

January 2019 seems to have been misplaced. Apologies.

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Foresight and Strategy is a monthly email round-up of issues we think might interest strategists and futurists.

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