Newsletter 2019

Foresight and Strategy 2019

December 2019

SAMI are proud to announce that we were awarded a place on the Government Office for Science Futures Framework contract.  With an overall score of 84%, we were particularly pleased to be awarded 28/30 for “Skills and expertise in Futures and other technical areas”.  This means we will be building up further our contacts within Government, and trust that this approval will be seen by others as a solid recommendation about what we can do.

SAMI’s workshop for the European Commission Research and Innovation Directorate was a great success. The workshop began with an ice-breaker called the “Polak” game, after the renowned futurist Fred Polak. In this, participants were asked to position themselves on a 2×2 matrix of “world getting better/worse” and “people able/unable to influence outcomes”.  Possibly because of the self-selected nature of the group we had a high proportion of positive views with just a couple of sceptics.

The main body of the workshop was structured around a specially designed tool we call the “SAMI Gameboard”.  In each of the ten regions, participants were asked in which of 4 scenarios  the region currently was, and how it might move as under the impact of global and regional trends over the next 10 and 20 years. With each region represented by a model animal, this became a physical, engaging game which people really got involved with.

We’ll be writing this up in various ways over the coming months, and generalising it into a technique we can apply to many different settings. If you are interested, please contact us:

SAMI Fellow Professor Paul Moxey is running another CRSA Forum meeting, this time on cybersecurity, on 17th January 2020. Contact for more information.

We’ll be taking a break over the holidays, so we wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year – whatever it may bring!

Executive Education
Our next Futures Thinking course is planned for 23rd/24th March 2020. To register an interest, please contact

We also offer several courses aimed at Boards and Senior Management designed to help them manage risk and seize opportunities – to “survive and thrive”.

Alternatively, we can arrange bespoke in-house courses for teams wanting to get started in horizon scanning and scenario planning.

Futures Issues
New births in China fell to 15.23 million last year, the lowest since China relaxed its one-child policy in 2014.  The dwindling birth rate is adding pressure to a shrinking labour pool and ageing population, casting a shadow over the country’s future economic outlook. The Chinese population will peak in 2023, five years earlier than official estimates.

The city of Maricá in suburban Rio de Janeiro is introducing a “Citizens’ Basic Income”, just under the national poverty line. There are no criteria for how the money is to be spent, although eligible recipients must have lived in Maricá for at least three years, be registered in the city’s database, and with earnings not exceeding three times the Brazilian minimum wage.  The idea has been much discussed, so it will be interesting to see how this experiment works out.

Drones in Malawi are taking drugs to remote areas faster, and also monitoring poaching, floods and mosquito breeding sites.

Google’s Loon have reached agreement with Peru to use their balloon-powered connections to bring internet to rural areas.

Scientists at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) have designed a lithium-carbon dioxide battery that is fully rechargeable and which remained stable over 500 cycles – overcoming two major obstacles to the promising technology. Lithium-CO2 is known to have the potential for performance and energy density up to seven times higher than today’s lithium-ion batteries.

3D-printing glass at room temperature has now been developed. Glass normally needs to be heated to more than 1000°C to be shaped. The new development is a glass recipe that includes inorganic glass precursors and light-responsive organic compounds. This mixture is added to a standard 3D printer that uses light to solidify liquid inks.

The FAO is worried that the lack of variety and increasing uniformity of crops may render them unsuitable for the changing climate conditions or new diseases. Over 50% of plant-based food comes from just three species – maize, wheat and rice. 

A California startup, Air Protein, has developed a technology that can create “meat” from thin air. The basic concept is that CO2 can be converted into nutrients by microorganisms called hydrogenotrophs. By cultivating these microbes inside fermentation tanks and feeding them a mix of CO2 and various other nutrients, Air Protein has shown it can produce an ingredient that is 80% protein.

Our Blogs 
Since our last newsletter we have continued our blog series on climate change firstly with some thoughts on what the climate emergency could mean for the future of fossil fuels, then what the implications of the climate crisis could be for the finance sector, and, finally, a look at a report from the US Army on planning for climate change and what they may need to do. Following our attendance at a Natural Resources Forum meeting, we also looked at how the UK is adapting to the new energy future.

Have you been to a conference about the future or read something that grabbed your attention recently? We are always on the lookout for more contributions to our blog, so if you have something to say about foresight, please do get in touch with Cathy Dunn –


November 2019

SAMI Director David Lye attended the ESPAS (European Strategy & Policy Analysis System) conference in Brussels – see his blogpost to read about the six key themes. Foresight is becoming a more central part of the European Commission’s planning approach, a timely recognition of the need to address the uncertainties we all face. 

SAMI Fellows Richard Walsh and Alan Woods supported The Financial Capability Resilience Task Force as it launched its latest report in the House of Lords. The report shows how many households lack the financial resilience to withstand life events that can cause a sudden loss of income or increase in expenditure and have little protection against falling into difficulty. It aims to:

  • raise awareness of income shocks and the need to build resilience to them
  • develop and embed a resilience index
  • make recommendations to public authorities and others
  • develop an initiative to help test what works in building resilience.

SAMI are running a foresight workshop for the European Commission Research and Innovation Directorate on research and innovation dynamics in 10 regions of the world. The workshop is based around an innovative tool we call the “SAMI Gameboard”. This helps the participants map the evolution of the regions between different scenarios over time as they face different trends.  During the project, SAMI conducted in-depth research into the regions which we hope to be able to share publicly in the New Year.

SAMI Fellow Professor Paul Moxey is running another CRSA Forum meeting, this time on cybersecurity, on 17th January 2020. Contact for more information.

Executive Education 
Bookings are now closed for the Futures Thinking course planned for 25th/26th November. This next one will be on 23rd/24th March 2020. To register an interest, please contact

We also offer a one-day workshop on cognitive bias.  This interactive course, aimed at board directors and senior leadership teams, examines how collective decisions are influenced by the dynamics of groups. Boards are susceptible to making unwise or hasty decisions due to pressure of personality, prejudice, misplaced certainty or limited time allocated to reach consensus. Cognitive bias at individual or group level is a recognised factor in poor or inappropriate decision making. However, knowing about it and neutralising it are two different things. This workshop will help you learn how to take practical steps towards better decision-making by your board by examining de-biasing options.

We have a number of other courses in our portfolio: see for more information.  Also we regularly provide bespoke in-house courses for teams wanting to get started in horizon scanning and scenario planning.

Futures Issues
An “unsinkable” metal has been developed by University of Rochester, NY, by mimicking the way insects trap air bubbles to make themselves “hydrophobic”.

Heating a lithium battery to 60°C makes it possible for it to be charged fully in 10 minutes, and capable of powering a 320-kilometre drive.

Top diabetes companies are getting closer to an artificial pancreas, and others are improving sensors for use in diabetes management.

As SpaceX launch of ‘megaconstellations’ of satellites (groups of 60 or so, called “Starlinks”), astronomers fear that they will disrupt scientific observations of the Universe.  Radio frequencies used for astronomical observation could face interference,  the satellites may create bright streaks in the night sky and increase congestion in orbit, raising the risk of collisions. An estimated 50,000 new satellites are planned according to filings to the US government.

“The Tomb”, a concrete coffin containing radioactive waste from US nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands, is at risk of collapsing from rising seas and other effects of climate change. Radiation in parts of the Marshall Islands rival those found near Chernobyl and Fukushima.

Neuroscientists experimenting with mini-brains are concerned that they might already be complex enough to feel pain.  Mini-brains – tiny lumps of tissue capable of generating rudimentary neural activity – are used to conduct research and experiments about the behaviour of the brain.

Our Blogs 
Over the past few weeks we have continued our blog series on the climate emergency with a look at where technologies might ameliorate some of the issues and also explored the Stern Review and the implications for economics. Alongside these we have revisited and reconsidered earlier thoughts on some uncomfortable truths about Brexit, reviewed this year’s New Scientist Live and the recent 2019 ESPAS Conference.

Have you been to a conference about the future or read something that grabbed your attention recently? We are always on the lookout for more contributions to our blog, so if you have something to say about foresight, please do get in touch with Cathy Dunn –


October 2019

SAMI Fellow David Lye sat on a “Question Time”-style panel discussion at the European Commission Research and Innovation Day in Brussels on 24 September, alongside members of Europe’s “Great and Good”.  Unlike Question Time, there were no questions about Brexit.  But the discussion ranged across the uses of foresight in business and industry, synergies between national government and EU foresight, and lessons from the Global R&I scenarios project, which SAMI is currently leading.  the meeting’s forecasts for 2030 included plastic-free oceans due to advances in plastic-eating enzymes, a scale up of capital for low carbon, and a short-sighted population due to constant screen use.

Fellow Jonathan Blanchard Smith chaired the Natural Resources Forum breakfast seminar on “Preparing the UK for the New Energy Future”. In a wide ranging conversation covering everything from the Paris Climate Change Goals to the issues of financing wind farms, from the continuing need for oil to the possibilities offered by hydrogen and ammonia, industry participants got the chance to frame the issues, and discuss them in a Chatham House Rule environment – creating a space where they could genuinely engage with the problems as well as the opportunities.

Jonathan was in Vienna in mid-October, continuing our Brexit work. He met with senior individuals in government, the civil service and business, as the EU continued its efforts to understand the UK’s departure. Strikingly, the conversation has moved from the dangers posed by Brexit to its opportunities, which look very different from the heart of Europe than they do from London.

Jonathan’s conference led us into further discussion on the use of hydrogen in transport, as we touched on in a recent blog posting. Not only is Japan using hydrogen powered vehicles at next year’s Olympics, it sees the fuel as a way to reduce costly energy imports. It hopes to have 800,000 hydrogen-powered vehicles by 2030 and to reduce the cost of hydrogen production by 90% by 2050 – making it cheaper than natural gas.  Hydrogen trucks, trains, cars, London buses and taxis are here and now – there’s even an example of a hydrogen powered rubbish truck in Groningen in the north of the Netherlands.

In other news we were interested to note an early signal of the withdrawal of the US from an international rules-based order – much as anticipated in Tricia Lustig and Gill Ringland’s “Megatrends and How to Survive Them”. UN staff were informed that the organisation will run out of money by the end of October. As a result of a 30% underpayment by member states (especially the Trump administration) they are nearly insolvent. USA pays 22% of UN fees; coupled with precipitous troop withdrawals from Syria, this is a strong indication of increasing US isolationism.

Executive Education
We are now taking bookings for our next two-day Futures Thinking course on 25th/26th November, where we have had interest already. This will be followed by one on 23rd/24th March 2020. To register an interest, please contact

We have a number of other courses in our portfolio: see for more information.  Also we regularly provide bespoke in-house courses for teams wanting to get started in horizon scanning and scenario planning.

Futures Issues
In a major step forward (sorry!) a man has been able to move all four of his paralysed limbs with a mind-controlled exoskeleton suit.  Implanted electrodes read his brainwaves and transform them into instructions to the exoskeleton. As well as medical applications, sophisticated brain-machine interfaces could radically change many fields – perhaps even leading to telepathy?

Telepathy too far-fetched?  Even the Royal Society has called for a “national investigation” into the “neural revolution”.

Tesla may be on the verge of another breakthrough in battery technology – batteries that can power a car for a million miles, last two decades and re-charge within 20 minutes.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) published its 2019 Global EV Outlook, with projections to 2030. It covers electric vehicle issues such as charging infrastructure deployment, ownership cost, energy use, carbon dioxide emissions and supply and value chain sustainability of battery materials.

The internet of things can bring security risks. A casino in USA was hacked into through a fish tank, which had IOT sensors that regulated the temperature, food and cleanliness of the tank. Over 10Gb of data was stolen and sent to Finland. And the FBI warned parents about internet-connected toys which could let hackers find out a child’s name, school, location, likes, dislikes and location.

China’s lunar lander carried a biosphere with various seeds. Most died quickly, but it seems that cotton seeds successfully sprouted leaves – the first plant to grow on the moon.

Our Blogs
The final blog in our recent series on the future of Africa looked at issues of governance and how these might affect the continent going forward. We then returned to our climate change series, firstly exploring the issues of carbon capture and storage as well as possibilities for nuclear and following that with some ideas on how transport initiatives may help to mitigate some of the problems. Our other blogs looked at Samsung’s report on their idea for the world on 2069 and also Nesta’s recent report on the future of government.

Have you been to a conference about the future or read something that grabbed your attention recently? We are always on the lookout for more contributions to our blog, so if you have something to say about foresight, please do get in touch with Cathy Dunn –


September 2019

SAMI’s work on Electronic Health Records (EHR) for the Chartered Insurance Institute reached a key milestone on 31st July with the publication of the report “Shaping the Future of Medical Records and Protection Insurance”.  This was very well-received. Munich Re highlighted the “insightful recommendations” and saw an opportunity to unlock market changing innovation. 86.5% of IFAs said they would like to use an EHR system to request their clients’ medical records. The report made five key recommendations and discussions are taking place across the health and insurance sectors on the best way to implement them.

We recently ran a day’s training course for Horizon Scanners from a European pharmaceutical company, at which we had an interesting discussion about the perennial challenge of how to break out of one’s usual thought patterns and sources to identify things outside the normal experience which are “weak signals” of change.  As a result we compiled a list of wide-ranging sources which can be used to launch a “scan of scans”.  If you think you might be interested in these too do get in touch. 

On a more specialist note, we ran a training programme for a Caribbean security agency.  

We continue our review of research and innovation systems and opportunities in 10 regions of the world on behalf of the EC Research and Innovation Directorate. We hope to make some the scanning available to a wider audience in due course.

SAMI Fellow Professor Paul Moxey published an article on distinguishing between poorly governed companies – that don’t think about the future effectively – and good ones. 

In a thought-provoking blogpost, Patricia Lustig and Gill Ringland discuss shifts in the “Overton Window” – the range of policies that a politician can recommend without appearing too extreme to gain or keep public office in the current climate of public opinion. Regretting many recent trends, they are looking for ways to “use our creativity and innovation to work together and develop visions of possible fair and positive futures”.  What do you think?

 After much work, we have now re-launched our website in a more visual and mobile-friendly style.  There’s likely to be many areas we could improve on (indeed, we already have a plan for some further developments), so please let us know what you think of it.

Executive Education

Booking has now closed for our two-day Futures Thinking course on 23rd and 24th September.  The next course will be on 25th/26th November, followed by one on 23rd/24th March 2020.

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

Futures Issues

How to identify things that will endure long into the future?  The “Lindy Effect” argues that the things that are already old will endure longest – arguably because they have already demonstrated an evolutionary “survival of the fittest”.

CRISPR techniques can create smart materials that change their form on command.

The shape-shifting materials could be used to deliver drugs, and to create sentinels for almost any biological signal.

Swiss Re’s SONAR 2019 study identified five risk for the re/insurance industry: digital technology’s clash with legacy hardware; potential threats from the spread of 5G mobile networks; increasingly limited fiscal and monetary flexibility by central banks; genetic testing’s implications on life insurers;  and the impact of climate change on the life and health sector.

Researchers have created an “electronic skin” which enables robots to detect temperature, pressure and any sudden unintended movement of objects in their grasp.

Smoking is on the decline: the number of cigarettes smoked monthly declined by 24.4%, over the last seven years, and number of smokers went down by 15% in the same period, meaning those who continue to smoke are doing so less.

Facebook’s artificial intelligence team has built an AI poker bot which can bluff – deliberately mislead its opponents. Applications in other fields might be worrying.  The need for AI ethics continues to grow.

And at last a good use for facial recognition – telling bar staff who is next in the queue!

Our Blogs

We have continued our weekly blog during the summer holidays and have commented on a range of topics. Our climate emergency series has explored effects of climate change on land, on extreme weather events, on migration, on the impact feedback loops may have on tipping points and we have begun to look at some possible mitigations, in particular new forms of energy generation. We also looked further at the issues of population, following the publication of a trilogy of novels written by O. M Faure, in a conversation between the author (a SAMI Principal) and one of our Directors (David Lye). Finally, we republished some blogs written earlier this year by another Associate, Garry Honey, which looked at the impact that activist shareholders can have on Boards and how they can encourage exploration of possible futures and risks affecting their companies

August 2019

No issue in August 2109

July 2019


Oxford Economics re-visited the tricky issue of AI and jobs. They think that up to 20 million manufacturing jobs around the world could be replaced by robots by 2030, but that as many new jobs will be created. This caused some debate in SAMI!

  • Jonathan Blanchard Smith feels that the projections were optimistic. Almost every job humans do apart from the directly creative are admissible of some sort of automation. Larry Summers in 2016 said “Very likely more than half of men will experience a year of non-work at least one year out of every five,” by 2050; PwC estimate that one third of all jobs will be automatable by the mid 2030’s. Other jobs may come along as they have in the past, in industries we have not yet even imagined. But to project a mere 20 million job losses by 2030 seems hopeful – and unlikely.
  • David Lye however focuses on the positive: especially that more dead-end jobs will be done by robots. But what will the new jobs be like? He thinks a lot of them will be person-to-person jobs, demanding empathy and communication skills. Which would favour women and disadvantage those not sensitive to nuance and cultural signals. So will these new jobs be lower-paid: or will women finally get due recognition for the full value of “women’s work”? There’ll also be jobs for “creatives” – game designers, VR and AR, and others who keep the rest of us entertained.

What’s your view of AI and the world of work?

SAMI is doing a review of foresight technology systems for scanning and analysis such as Factr, SoluxR, Futurescaper and Shaping Tomorrow. Do you have any favourite systems?

Jonathan Blanchard Smith’s talk to the Thames Valley branch of the Chartered Quality Institute about post-Brexit scenarios was well-received. It was interesting to note different attitudes compared with the London branch.

SAMI Principal Olfa Meliani (nom-de-plume OM Faure) held a book launch for her action-packed and thought-provoking futurist fiction trilogy, The Beautiful Ones. Here are the links for Amazon UK:

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 are also currently organising two in-house bespoke courses for different clients.

Futures Issues

  • The UN has revised its global population growth figures downwards to a little over 9.7bn people in 2050 and just under 10.9bn in 2100 (median forecasts): 37m and 309m lower respectively than the forecast two years ago. Birth rates are falling faster than expected in some developing countries, faster than they did in the West. Several low birth-rate countries, such as Italy, Japan and South Korea, are forecast to stay that way for years. South Korea, which has a fertility rate of just 1.1, is now expected to have 30m people in 2100—down from 51m today.
  • Russian molecular biologist Denis Rebrikov is considering implanting gene-edited embryos into women. Like the recent controversial Chinese experiment, he will target the CCR5, gene, in order to provide protection against HIV, this time focusing on HIV-positive mothers. He’s also looking at similar procedures for five couples who are deaf  who want to try the CRISPR gene-editing technique so they can have a biological child who can hear. Unsurprisingly, many scientists and bioethicists are troubled by Rebrikov’s plans.
  • Researchers have created a robotic fish powered by a battery fluid that its developers call ‘robot blood’. The 40-centimetre soft robot doesn’t have solid batteries — instead it is propelled by a dual-function fluid that stores energy and moves the fish’s fins. The approach allows the machine to store more energy in a smaller space and operate for longer periods without the need for heavy and cumbersome battery packs.
  • A  hybrid airship  called Airlander, that gets its lift from three sources; helium-filled bag, wing-shaped lifting body, and thrusters, is expected to have prototypes in the air by 2020. The ship can land like a plane but with a much shorter runway. It can also hover and come straight down, doing a vertical landing or take-off like a helicopter. Heavy cargo transport is its main use and Africa, with its poor transport infrastructure, its main potential market.

Our Blogs

In the last few weeks we have begun a new blog series looking at the topic of climate change.  The first of these introduced the series, outlining the main areas we will look at in more detail and the second looked at the impact of climate change on our seas and oceans. The series will continue over the coming weeks and if anyone would like to write a blog on the future aspects of the topic please do get in touch. We also blogged on the subject of  
population decline
following the publication of ‘Empty Planet’ by Bricker and Ibbotson and the latest UN report on population projections. And finally, we continued our series on Africa, looking at the key economic issues facing the continent.

June 2019

SAMI are continuing work with the Chartered Institute of Insurers on digitising medical records. Richard Walsh will be giving a talk “Shaping the future of digital access to medical records” to the Assurance Medical Underwriting Society
on some of the work underway on July 2nd (members only).

SAMI Fellow Professor Paul Moxey, with Dr Roger Barker and Professor Andrew Chambers, ran an IoD webinar recently: “Recent corporate governance scandals: what can we learn from the collapses of Carillion, Patisserie Valerie and Interserve?”. The discussion covered the factors that led to the recent corporate governance scandals at these organisations, as well as examples of organisations that may be at risk in the near future. The need for a deep understanding of corporate governance and training was raised during the session. A full recording of the audio and slides from the webinar are available here (registration required).

Jonathan Blanchard Smith will be talking to the Thames Valley branch of the Chartered Quality Institute about post-Brexit scenarios on June 27th in Basingstoke.

Comment – what can we learn from the European Elections?

Looking for themes for the future in European Union elections is always hard: after all, most people vote in the Euros on subjects that are intrinsically national, and often vote to give a bloody nose to their own governments. Some consistent themes, though, are clear.

  • Turnout was at historic highs. The European electorate is engaging with Europe.
  • Nationalist and populist parties did less well than expected. Le Pen in France, Liga in Italy and the Brexit Party in the UK all did well, but most of the Mediterranean moved left, along with much of Northern Europe. The Greens may have won a full third of votes from the under-30s.
  • Traditional parties are in trouble. In France, socialists and conservatives combined gained less than 15% of the votes. In Britain, Labour and Conservatives combined gained under 25%. In Germany, the Greens gained more than the Social Democrats (who got under 16% for the first time in their history).
  • The ends of the spectrum are confused. Greens have a range of policies, united only really by a focus on the climate. The hard right is pro-union and anti-capitalist in Italy, anti-immigration in France, anti-Europe in Britain. They are united in government spending on their populations, but that’s about it.

So we have a Europe of citizens, moving away from the large parties and focussing less on a suite of policies than on major overriding issues – the environment, immigration – which the large parties seem to be ignoring. Traditional party structures are failing to cope with the move to single-issue politics. And the young are voting Green. All these are trends we can expect to continue; and it will be interesting to see how and if they play out in upcoming national elections across the Union.

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

Swarm drones are making news. China has unveiled a new armoured vehicle that is capable of firing 12 suicide drones to launch attacks on targets and to conduct reconnaissance operations Twelve drones in one vehicle can form a formidable swarm and deliver a saturated attack on a single target, or they could spread out to deal with multiple targets.

Meanwhile, NESTA discusses the advantages of swarm robotics, where the individual drones operate in a self-organising system, like an ant colony. They envisage applications in agriculture, civil engineering (“self-healing infrastructure”), and disaster recovery. Some of the implications are quite difficult however.

And Fendt has produced swarms of lightweight electric robots to plant seed and manage fertiliser.

The largest survey yet of plant extinctions shows that the world’s seed-bearing plants have been disappearing at a rate of nearly 500 times higher than would be expected as a result of natural forces alone. The project looked at more than 330,000 species and found that plants on islands and in the tropics were the most likely to be declared extinct.

IARPA, the research arm for the U.S. director of national intelligence, is re-running the Tetlock Superforecaster challenge. Solvers produce forecasts to a set of more than 300 questions released regularly over the course of the nine-month Challenge. Each question includes a set of exhaustive and mutually exclusive response options, which can be clearly evaluated– eg “How many missile test events will North Korea conduct in August 2019?”. Winners will be announced in January 2020.

At the end of May, the UK went 2 weeks without using any coal in its power network for the first time since the Industrial Revolution. Renewables, mainly wind and solar power, are providing about a third of our electricity now. National grid forecasts that 70% of our electricity could be from renewable sources by 2030.

Our Blogs

Over the last few weeks our blogs have looked a variety of topics. Firstly, we continued our Africa series with some thoughts on the possible environmental impacts over the next 50 – 100 years. Then we wondered whether there was any likelihood of the world entering a new age of medievalism. After that it was time to review the current AI exhibition at the Barbican. Lastly we shared some thoughts on the future of income protection in the private rental market.

We are shortly to begin a new series of blogposts on climate change. These will cover the expected implications and the technologies that might mitigate the effects. If this is a particular area of interest or concern to you, please do contact us if you would like to contribute.

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.
  • 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 biotechnologyand 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 thedigitalisation 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
Updated version here

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 hydrogenas 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 issuessurrounding 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 – Happy New Year

Perhaps the most irritating expression for a futurist to hear is “We live in interesting times”. Partly, the problem is all of human history is interesting, at least in retrospect; partly because cliché masks thinking. And one of the things we do, quite intensely, at SAMI is think.

But for those of us interested in the now and the future, the times are – well, interesting. A new Congress in the United States, a government in shutdown over a wall, a populist victory in Brazil, the UK’s imminent departure from the European Union, warnings of a global recession, gilets jaunes in the streets around Europe… just some of the headlines of a world in transition. Our global drivers – everything from migration to the fourth industrial revolution, climate change to biotechnology – continue to play out, of course, despite the day-to-day; but they now play out in the context of global instability which is full of weak and strong signals of change.

If one wants to start the year on a positive, China’s wonderfully named Jade Rabbit 2 exploring the dark side of the moon and New Horizon’s flyby of Ultima Thule give signs of one particular future, and this too goes into the mix of factors we shall be studying over the coming year.

We’ll be working in the heart of the EU and in Whitehall, in the private, public and third sectors. It will be an interesting year, when robust decisions are all the more important as the times get all the more uncertain. We’d love to work with you to help you, and your organisation, get to grips with what your futures look like – and how to benefit from them, whatever they are.

Our “Four post-Brexit scenarios” project started from a desire to think about the UK’s departure in a way which actually contributed to the debate in a non-partisan fashion. In the same vein, in December last year, the SAMI Core Team got together to explore the opportunities that Brexit could create. Look out for a blog posting on our conclusions shortly.

But if 2019 fills you with dread, have a look at Future Crunch’s list of 99 good news stories you probably didn’t hear about. Here are a few:

Conservation efforts are succeeding:

  • Demand for ivory in China has fallen by half, and poaching rates in Kenya are falling
  • The population of tigers in the wild in Nepal has doubled in 7 years
  • After more than ten years of debate, 140 nations agreed to begin negotiations on a historic “Paris Agreement for the Ocean” , the first-ever international treaty to stop overfishing and protect life in the high seas.
  • Global health is improving:

Attitudes are becoming more tolerant (no, really!):

  • Female genital mutilation has fallen from 57.7% to 14.1% in north Africa, from 73.6% to 25.4% in west Africa, and from 71.4% to 8% in east Africa.
  • Tunisia became the first Arab nation to pass a law giving women and men equal inheritance , overturning an old provision of Sharia Islamic law.
  • Homosexuality is no longer illegal in India , Lebanon , Trinidad and Tobago
  • Living standards have improved for most people in the world
  • Clean energy continues to grow and become cheaper
  • War, crime and violence continued an inexorable decline
  • Economies are becoming greener – more electric vehicles, more recycling, less pollution
  • And plastic pollution is being addressed.

Olfa Meliani-Faure and Bill Aiken have been made SAMI Principals.

  • Olfa joined SAMI in October. Her most recent experience has been in the banking sector, and her academic (and teaching) experience includes scenario planning.
  • Bill, who has been a long-standing SAMI Associate, will now become more active in developing SAMI’s propositions for the Government sector.

Executive Education

Our two-day Futures Thinking Workshop will run 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

  • How will humans and driverless cars interact ? In Chandler, where Google are testing their Waymo car, the reactions of the public have been antagonistic . They have had tyres slashed, rocks thrown at them and been forced off the road – even had guns waved at them. In other trials, driverless cars have been “bullied” by more aggressive human drivers. And if pedestrians know that a driverless car will always stop for them, then maybe jay-walking will become a major problem.
  • The increasing use of robotics in social care has been shown to have positive impacts on mobility, mental health, and cognitive skills and can provide patients with physical, social, and cognitive assistance. There remain ethical, legal, and regulatory issues such as impacts on users’ autonomy and privacy, and questions over the use and ownership of data.
  • By using blockchain technology, Tanzania’s government announced it had weeded out thousands of “ghost workers” from the public sector, ending the monthly outflow of nearly $200 million in salaries to employees who existed only on paper. Nigeria’s customs service is using it to increase revenues by reducing corruption. In Ghana, where a majority of landowners are unregistered and lack title deeds, a local blockchain startup, Bitland, is working with local communities, using a digital ledger to build permanent and trackable land records.
  • Smart tattoos comprising special dyes within plastic microcapsules can react to various environmental parameters, such as heat and sunlight. One tattoo may be made to appear only if a person is experiencing a fever; another tattoo serves as an indicator of sun exposure to help prevent sun burns. Researchers believe that their approach may lead to other types of tattoos that may be able to detect diseases and various health conditions
  • CO2 emissions from fossil fuels and industry will grow by around 2.7% in 2018, the largest increase in seven years, according to preliminary data from researchers at the Global Carbon Project . The largest increases have occurred in China, driven by government stimulus of the construction industry. US emissions have also increased markedly in 2018, after an unusually cold winter and hot summer helped to drive up energy demand – a frightening global warming feedback loop.

Our Blogs

Our December blogs started with a review of the ESPAS 2018 conference in Brussels. Following this we continued our series on the future of Africa with a look at the impact of technology in the coming decades. Christmas was then upon us so we looked back at what the year had brought and, as we published this, Gatwick was closed due to the drone attack and we recalled some previous work where we noted these events as possibilities.