Newsletter 2020

Newsletter - Foresight and Strategy 2020

December 2020

Looking back at the UK national planning for a non-flu pandemic

At this time of year, it is traditional to look back over the past twelve months and take stock of the year that is coming to a close. There are many factors that have determined the impact of Covid-19, but from the perspective of Future Studies, we thought it would be interesting to look at what the National Risk Register of Civil Emergencies had to say about pandemics. The NRR is the main public document published by the Cabinet Office to set out the UK Government’s “assessment of the likelihood and potential impact of a range of different risks that may directly affect the UK”. This is used to plan for each risk, and assess our capability to respond to the respective reasonable worst case scenario.
 
The most recent edition is dated 2017 and can be found here. There is a whole section on new human diseases, but the planning seems to be focused almost entirely on new strains of influenza, which it suggests could lead to “20,000 to 750,000 fatalities”.
 
The document does mention non-flu human diseases, but the impact of a non-flu pandemic is visualised as follows: “Consequences may include …. several thousand people experiencing symptoms, potentially leading to up to 100 fatalities.”  Digging through the previous editions, you can see where this figure of 100 fatalities comes from. In 2008, they said:
“The likelihood of a new disease like SARS spreading to the UK is low, but if an outbreak of an emerging infectious disease occurred in the UK, and preventative measures were not put in place swiftly, the impact seen could be on the scale of the SARS outbreak in Toronto, Canada. Toronto had 251 cases of SARS in two waves over a period of several months. For every patient with confirmed SARS, 10 potential cases were investigated and 100 followed up.”
The 2008 document has a whole six paragraphs on non-flu pandemics, but this gets whittled down in subsequent editions as memories of the 2003 SARS outbreak receded further into the history.
 
With hindsight, this was a significant underestimated view of the scale of the risk. Interviewed by the Select Committee on Risk Assessment and Risk Planning at its first (!!) meeting, Roger Hargeaves, Director of the Civil Contingencies Secretariat in the Cabinet Office (in office for only 6 weeks) accepted that we ended up between the pandemic flu and Ebola/SARS scenarios. “The big difference with coronavirus versus pandemic flu was, first, asymptomatic spread, which you would not get with pandemic flu”.  Assuming there was no intermediate threat was an oversight.
 
What lessons should we take away from this experience?

  • Beware of assuming the future will be like the past. Just because the 2003 SARS outbreak and the 2012-15 MERS outbreaks were contained didn’t mean that the next novel disease will be. The relative weightings given to current data and the results of horizon scanning are difficult but vital judgements for risk analysis.
  • If you identify high-impact high-likelihood risks, then explore around those risks in your planning. Don’t just use a single point forecast (“flu pandemic”); ask the “What If?” questions (What if the next pandemic is not flu? What if the next SARS is so mild that half of those that get infected don’t show symptoms? What if our isolation strategies don’t work?) Scenario techniques and exercises can certainly help explore these.
  • With a similar group of people doing repeated analysis for the NRA there is the danger of ‘group think,’ particularly when past assumptions have proved to be sound. Horizon scanning and broader engagement in the process can help to limit this.

 
There will many lessons to be learnt from Covid-19. It is important that this includes taking a hard-nosed look at national risk planning in the UK, and how the reports are used to prepare for risks.
 
And does it matter? Well, compare the effectiveness of UK response to Covid-19 with that of China, Taiwan or South Korea. And to those who say this is not a fair comparison, as those countries were able to learn from their direct experiences of SARS in 2003, we say “Why didn’t we learn it too?”
 
After roughly two years our project for the EC Research and Innovation Directorate into potential future environments for R&I in 10 different regions of the world has concluded. Once the report is published, we will share with you the innovative “Gameboard” approach to mapping routes to alternative futures which we developed specifically for this project.
 
At the UNESCO Summit on Futures Literacy, Joe Ravtez ran a session on Foresight-3.0 – the literacy of transformation’  This interactive Synergistic Conversation explored the scope of a next-generation Foresight-3.0, using the case study of the pandemic.  The Foresight-3.0 program overall produces a collective book/platform, which demonstrates the ‘collective anticipatory intelligence’, and leads towards action/research programmes.
 
The event was sold out with 100 participants, all seeking positive ways forward at a time of flux and disruption.  The programme is also developing an innovative method of online visual thinking, as a potential enabler of the ‘collective anticipatory intelligence’.   The ideas behind Foresight 3.0 were then explored further at the Foresight Journal stall, with the launch of the new book Deeper-City: Collective-Intelligence-and-the-Pathways-from-Smart-to-Wise
 
Patricia Lustig hosted several live sessions on the Association of Professional Futurists stand at the event. Her interview by Marius Oosthuizen can be found on the APF stand under Best of APF: Meet APF members. 
 
She also  ran an interactive session on Appreciative Inquiry at the Asia Pacific Foresight Network’s Regenerating Asia 2050 virtual conference.
 
 
Executive Education
We have no more public training sessions in 2020 and will return with “Understanding the Future”, online from 11th to 15th January 2021. The course fee is £490 + VAT, and discounts may be available for self-funded individuals. For more information, please email us at training@samiconsulting.co.uk   or download our Training Portfolio.
 
 
Futures Issues
A range of new technologies from virtual reality through artificial intelligence (A.I.) to CRISPR is set to revolutionise dentistry. Examples include neural networks to better detect dental decay and periodontal disease from radiographs, smart toothbrushes that help you brush properly,  and augmented reality and virtual reality helping to train dentists.
 
Bionic gloves have helped a Brazilian pianist play Bach again after he lost the use of the left hand due to focal dystonia, a neurological condition affecting the muscles. The gloves have rods that make the fingers spring back up after they depress the keys and allow the pianist to continue playing.
 
Tiny robots based on parasite hookworms can latch on to the intestines and gradually release pain-relieving drugs. The six-pointed devices, each as large as a dust speck, are made of metal and thin film that can allow them to change shapes. They are covered by a heat-sensitive paraffin wax and can release a drug gradually into the body. 
 
The UK and Canada are funding eight projects to develop quantum technologies, which exploit our understanding of light and matter at the atomic level. The projects cover fields such as communication and computing. Meanwhile Chinese scientists demonstrated a light-based quantum computer that exceeded the fastest classical supercomputers “solving” a #P-hard problem, one far too complicated for even the largest traditional computer system in a demonstration of “quantum primacy”.
 
Estimates of bio-diversity loss may be being skewed by the collapse of a few species, when in fact most are doing well. Many systems are actually improving, largely in northern and temperate regions.
 
A novel material made from rotting fruit and vegetables absorbs stray UV light from the sun and converts it into renewable energy. The material allows high energy photons to be absorbed by luminescent particles derived from fruit and vegetables, which re-emit them as visible light. Unlike solar panels, the system is effective even when not directly facing the sun because it can pick up UV through clouds and bouncing from walls, pavements and other buildings.
 
The European Space Agency, the UK and the US are all evaluating ideas for the feasibility of space-based solar power technology, which includes solutions for beaming electricity long distances, while the United States already has a prototype in orbit. Energy from space-based photovoltaics is converted into high frequency microwaves to be beamed back to Earth.
 
GM announced it had solved the problems of metallic lithium batteries (they tend to catch fire!) thereby enabling a massive energy lift.
 
Our Blogs 
Recent blogs have covered a range of topics. Firstly, we looked at the issues that may arise geopolitically as and when peak oil finally arrives. Then we began a short series of blogs on the future of cities with an introductory look at the various areas that will impact them. We also posted a blog looking at reasonable worst-case scenarios and how these have been used during the current situations of Brexit and the pandemic.
 
If you’d like to receive reminders when our blogs are published, then check the link on our website or if you would like to write a blog for us, then please contact us here.

 

November 2020

We often talk about the seeds of the future being found in the present. At the moment, we seem to be positively overwhelmed with those seeds: the elections in the United States, the imminent final break of the UK from the European Union, and a resurgent coronavirus being only the most obvious. The US election will have global repercussions, of which we only see the beginning; most obviously, perhaps, the decisive rejection of populism at the polls (Biden/Harris getting 306 electoral college places to Trump/Pence’s 232). However, the causes of populism have not gone away; the abdication of US leadership in the last four years will take time and energy to reverse; and the chance of a more successful, and perhaps more subtle, reframing of the Trump playbook for 2024 must be a possibility.
 
But we will take our pleasures where we find them, and the hope of an effective vaccine for coronavirus, coupled with a more internationally engaged US, give some hope that 2021 will see the end of two of this year’s significant disruptors. Brexit is another matter, for the UK and for Europe, and one which we continue to watch very closely. Scenarios are the only useful tool here, since projections for the UK’s future vary so widely that single point forecasts have no planning value. We continue to argue against the conceit that on January 1, 2021, Brexit “will be done”. Whilst the ink may be dry on the paper, its consequences will be playing out for decades to come, and we will continue to advise our clients as they do.
 
In partnership with Rocket Science and the Institute of Employment Studies, SAMI is to undertake a project on future skills needs for the NE England Local Enterprise Partnership. Particular focus will be on the tourism, offshore wind and health and social care sectors.
 
Our Futures Cohort, an online group in which members share experiences of foresight projects, welcomed two new members for its second session last week.  If there is sufficient interest, we will set up a parallel group. If you’d like to be part of it, please contact Jane Dowsett – jane.dowsett@samiconsulting.co.uk.
 
SAMI Principals Patricia Lustig and Wendy Schultz contributed to a report by the Millennium Project Covid Scenarios Team on “Three Futures of the COVID-19 Pandemic in the United States; January 1, 2022”.  The scenarios were:

  • America Endures– baseline, surprise free, both good and bad decisions, and mix of elements from scenarios 2 and 3.

  • Depression, Hubris, and Discord– plausible adverse scenario, bad decisions, with social and political discord

  • Things went Right! – plausible favourable scenario, with good decisions, responsible citizenry, and rising social cohesion

 
Huw Williams gave a talk on his analysis of various organisations’ sets of megatrends – “Meta-megatrends”- to Defra’s Futures Community of Practice. The interesting Q&A session covered issues around sustainability (bio-diversity, pollution etc.), the interaction of megatrends (and their possible reversal), and the cyclical nature of some systems. The presentation is available to other audiences – contact huw.williams@samiconsulting.co.uk. The report is available on our website.
 
 
Executive Education
We have no more public training sessions in 2020 and will return with “Understanding the Future”, online from 11th to 15th January 2021. The course fee is £490 + VAT, and discounts may be available for self-funded individuals. For more information, please email us at training@samiconsulting.co.uk   or download our Training Portfolio.
 
 
Futures Issues
The Hyperloop concept championed by Virgin achieved a milestone with a passenger-carrying trial. Two passengers – both company staff – travelled the length of a 500m test track in 15 seconds, reaching 107mph (172km/h). Virgin is aiming ultimately for speeds of more than 1,000km/h. Significant infrastructure issues would hamper real-world deployments.
 
After much hype and some scepticism, air taxis are to be trialled in Spain. Enaire, Spain’s air navigation authority, has announced plans to begin demonstrating flying taxis in Barcelona and Santiago de Compostela in 2022. A favourite of sci-fi movies, air taxis could radically re-shape transport infrastructure and urban design generally.
 
Brain organoids, grown from human stem cells, are used to study the properties of the brain. One study in which they produced coordinated waves of activity, resembling those seen in premature babies, has raised ethical questions about whether such entities could be conscious – even though neuroscientists have no agreed way to define and measure consciousness.
 
Government Office for Science has produced a review of four trends and four scenarios on the future of citizen data systems
 
The International Energy Agency reported that the cost of solar energy is dropping more rapidly than previously thought, providing some parts of the world with historically cheap electricity. 
 
The World Economic Forum produced a report on the impact of automation on employment, concluding that automation would create 97 million new jobs by 2025, but reduce jobs by 85 million in other areas.  The speed of the change and the extent of re-skilling required creates new challenges and could increase inequality.
 
A network of IoT sensors attached to trees could be able to detect wildfires in under 60 minutes, even in remote locations.
 
Two large pieces of orbital debris narrowly missed each other, coming within 25 metres. The dead Russian satellite and Chinese rocket body have a combined mass of about 2,800kg and had a closing velocity of 52,950 kph. A collision would have been incredibly destructive, creating a huge cloud of debris that then could have taken out many other satellites. With the amount of debris up there, a collision of this type seems inevitable in the next few years. How reliant are you on satellite systems?
 
 
Our Blogs 
 
Recent blogs have continued our series discussing aspects of risk and its impact on futures. Firstly we looked at how our attitude to risk colours our responses to the current pandemic and what impact that may have going forward. We then considered the need for boards to address the issues of cybersecurity and the associated risks which can affect businesses. Alongside these blogs we have also continued our series on our revised drivers of change, looking first at AI and the 4th Industrial Revolution and its likely effects, following this with an exploration of possible directions for biotech and then examining how social attitudes are evolving and changing with the generations..
If you’d like to receive reminders when our blogs are published, then check the link on our website or if you would like to write a blog for us, then please contact us here.

October 2020

As we enter the fourth quarter of 2020, uncertainty about the future continues to be the defining factor. Coronavirus remains mostly uncontrolled in the US; the anticipated, but apparently unstoppable, second wave is now well embedded in Europe; and a vaccine seems months away. In the US, we are faced not only with the presidential elections but also the uncertainty about whether, if there is a transition, it will be smooth. China’s military buildup in the Taiwan Straits continues. Armenia and Azerbaijan remain conflicted, with Turkey revealed as a potent, and aggressive, exporter of highly effective military equipment. And on 1 January, the Brexit process finally concludes as the UK ends the transition period – with no deal in sight, and government sounding increasing warnings about the need to prepare (for what?).

Uncertainty is where SAMI lives. We are comfortable here, sitting at the nexus of the past, the now and a range of potential futures. Our role is to help people understand what those futures might be, so they can prepare to meet them. Whilst this combination of inflexion points can seem overwhelming, it’s important to remember that there will be a future – the trick is going to be working out how to deal with it, whatever it is. That’s where we can help.

Our Futures Cohort, an online group in which members share experiences of foresight projects, held its first session last month and will be holding its second session on 10 November. New members are welcome at this session, but not afterwards. If there is sufficient interest, we will set up a parallel group. If you are interested, please contact Jane Dowsett – jane.dowsett@samiconsulting.co.uk.

Joe Ravetz’s “Synergistic conversations” met (virtually) on 4 September – a short report and other material is available here.  The next meeting will be on 20 October:

Lo-co-gov-3.0:  Many voted to ‘take back control’ – We need new models for local collaborative governance, unlocking human resources with ‘collective local intelligence’:  (in combination with the Looper project).  

Huw Williams will be giving a talk on his analysis of various organisations’ mega-trends – “Meta-megatrends” – to Defra’s Futures Community of Practice on 5 November.  The report is available on our website.

SAMI Associate Keith Leslie has been appointed the first external Chair of Trustees at Samaritans in the UK & Ireland, with effect from 1 January 2021. Samaritans are anexcellent organisation with their 22,000 volunteers, currently providing vital services including new support to the frontline staff of the NHS and care homes. The appointment will be included in his book A Question of Leadership – leading change in times of crisis that is being published by Bloomsbury in February 2021. Apart from Samaritans and the book, he continues to be busy as the independent reviewer of the management and leadership of the House of Lords.

David Walden, a long-standing member of SAMI, has decided it is time to step away from the role of SAMI Fellow. We thank him for all his contributions over the years and wish him all the best in the future.

The European Commission has published its first Strategic Foresight Report charting the course towards a more resilient Europe.

Executive Education

“Understanding the Future”, our public training workshop, will run online from 2nd to 6 November 2020, in five sessions, starting at 10:00 am (UK time) each day and lasting one and a half to two hours each. The course fee is £490 + VAT, and discounts may be available for self-funded individuals. For more information, or if you wish to make a booking, please email us at training@samiconsulting.co.uk   or download our Training Portfolio.

Futures Issues

Global heating continues apace: new heat records in South America.

In what could be the first death directly linked to a cybersecurity attack, a woman died during a ransomware attack on a German hospital when they were not able to admit her.

Researchers have developed a standalone device that converts sunlight, carbon dioxide and water into a carbon-neutral fuel, without requiring any additional components or electricity. This “artificial photosynthesis” technology could pave the way toward sustainable and practical solar fuel production.

Lots of AI stories this month:

  • Robot dogs can help the elderly cope—especially during Covid. Although not a replacement for real-life therapy dogs, research shows that they can benefit people struggling with loneliness or dementia.
  • Tesla is still claiming it will have a million robotaxis in operation by the end of the year; Baidu’s robotaxi service, Apollo Go, has launched in Beijing following successful trials in the cities of Changsha and Cangzhou back in August.
  • A Russian facial recognition company says it’s currently testing  “aggression detection” tech with plans for a full rollout to its surveillance partners and customers in 2021.
  • Following two years of design, construction and training of its AI models, Mayflower, the new fully-autonomous trimaran, was launched off the coast of Plymouth.
  • But in another example of some of the challenges of AI systems: algorithms for detecting eye diseases are mostly trained on patients in the US, Europe, and China, which can make the tools ineffective for other racial groups and countries.

Our Blogs 

 Our blogs have continued with our series which looks at issues relating to risk firstly with a look at the impact of the pandemic on the central business districts of cities and whether they will be able to develop new purposes if businesses don’t return. This was followed by a look at how political risk can drive risk mitigation strategies. Our other blog series is looking at our revised drivers for change. The second in this series refreshed our set of drivers relating to climate change and renewable energy sources and the third in the series examined changes in the areas around geo-political dynamics.

If you’d like to receive reminders when our blogs are published then check the link on our website or if you would like to write blog for us then please contact us here.

September 2020

After our summer break, we are back with this month’s newsletter. We hope you all had a good summer, and are starting to find some ways to re-start operations. We’re looking hard at the short term – whilst the recent rise in coronavirus cases is a concern, it comes alongside a projected recession, the US elections and the imminent full impact of the UK’s departure from the EU. We’re also seeing further evidence of the playing out of megatrends such as climate change, some faster than projected. We often say “the seeds of the future are in the present” – and if these are the seeds, we need to understand how they will grow – and into what. On which note:

Our project for the EC Research and Innovation Directorate into potential future environments for R&I in 10 different regions of the world is coming to a close. Our section of the report is complete, and final approval of the whole report is now awaited. SAMI conducted in-depth research and horizon scanning for each region examining public and private sector attitudes to research. We then produced four global scenarios of the future based around the two dimensions of “protectionism” or “globalism” and “transformation of geopolitical and economic systems” or “business as usual”.  These were then expanded into scenarios for each of the ten regions and used to help EC R&I explore the context for research in each. This substantial body of work, produced over 2 years and, updated to incorporate effects of the pandemic, provides a valuable insight into global research and innovation which can be used to inform domestic and global strategy.  The global and regional scenarios have an extra dynamic by virtue of a “Gameboard”, which allows major variables, e.g. catastrophe climate change, to be tested for their impact on the scenarios.  For more information please contact David Lye – david.lye@samiconsulting.co.uk

Our new Futures Cohort has been established and will next week hold the first of six sessions. The Cohort is an online group in which members share experiences of foresight projects, which we intend to be a way of building up best practice.  The first session will be exploring how to get engagement in futures thinking amongst decision-makers. Later sessions will reflect the needs of the group, but could include “creating a culture of future-preparedness”.   Parallel cohorts can be set up – if you are interested please contact Jane Dowsett – jane.dowsett@samiconsulting.co.uk.

SAMI Principal Joe Ravetz’s new book has just been published. Deeper-City: Collective-Intelligence-and-the-Pathways-from-Smart-to-Wise sets out to explore collective intelligence – learning and thinking at higher levels.  It addresses the combined challenges of cities, economies, ecologies, technologies and political systems.  It maps out 40 pathways in diagrams and images, from local neighbourhoods to global finance, and from smart-wise cities to global climate. It explores the frontiers of the deeper social mind, resilience and foresight.  Deeper City combines practical guidance with visual thinking and blue-skies research.  This book is for anyone seeking a sustainable future – systems thinkers, designers, politicians, planners, activists, students, engineers, artists, researchers etc. 

SAMI Principal Patricia Lustig is a Board member of the Association of Professional Futurists and recently facilitated its annual conference.

Wise words from Adam Gale reviewing M&S in Management Today: “It’s what every rational firm does – when something goes well, you do more of it, which is great until that thing no longer goes well. Sunk costs – and their associated fallacy – then mean you double down on trying to make it work, rather than exiting while you have the chance in order to focus on growth areas.”  Better to use scenarios to explore where your future might be.

Executive Education

Our next flagship public training workshop “Understanding the Future” will run online from 5th to 9th October 2020, in five sessions, starting at 10:00am (UK time) each day and lasting one and a half to two hours each. The course fee is £490 + VAT, and discounts may be available for self-funded individuals. For more information, or if you wish to make a booking, please email us at training@samiconsulting.co.uk   or download our Training Portfolio.

We can also design online courses specifically for your organisation; these can usually be arranged at relatively short notice if required. We offer several courses aimed at Boards and Senior Management designed to help them manage risk and seize opportunities.

Futures Issues

A trial in Indonesia showed that releasing mosquitoes modified to carry a bacterium called Wolbachia, which stops the insects from transmitting some viruses, led to a steep drop of up to 77% in cases of dengue fever in the city.

The internet may not be as robust as you thought it was. An outage at CenturyLink led to a 3.5% drop in global web traffic, taking out leading organisations like Reddit, Hulu, AWS, Xbox Live many more.  How would your organisation cope? Complete internet failure is no longer a “black swan”.

Ultra-thin solar cells could offer an alternative way to power novel electronic devices, such as medical skin patches, where conventional energy sources are unsuitable. They are so thin, light and flexible that they can rest on a soap bubble.

Nano-diamond “batteries”, powered by recycled nuclear waste have an energy density without comparison and last up to 28,000 years without ever needing a charge. They will be nigh-on indestructible and totally safe in an electric car crash. And in some applications, like electric cars, they stand to be considerably cheaper than current lithium-ion packs despite their huge advantages. Radiation levels from a cell, it is claimed, will be less than the radiation levels produced by the human body itself, making it totally safe for use in a variety of applications.

A new printing process can turn any paper or cardboard packaging into a keyboard, keypad, or other easy-to-use human-machine interface. This innovation can be used to build vertical pressure sensors that do not require any external battery, instead harvesting the energy from their contact with the user. These can convert conventional cardboard packaging or paper into smart packaging or a smart human-machine interface, such as a music player interface.

The world’s first fossil-free hydrogen-powered steel plant began operations last month. Located in northern Sweden HYBRIT (Hydrogen Breakthrough Ironmaking Technology) is aims to reduce CO2 emissions in the steel industry by replacing coal with hydrogen in the steelmaking process.

Our Blogs 

Following a summer break in our blog series, we restarted this earlier this month with a look at risk and whether we see the future with a glass half full or half empty mindset. We then began our new series on developments in the drivers for change that we posit with a look at population dynamics. If you’d like to receive reminders when our blogs are published then check the link on our website or if you would like to write blog for us then please contact us here.

August 2020

We are taking a break this month, but will return with more thoughts on the future in September.

July 2020

We are pleased to be setting up a “Futures Cohort”: an online group in which members share experiences of using futures tools and techniques, which we intend to be a way of building up best practice.  We believe that sharing experiences will help you embed futures thinking in your organisations; be better positioned for future uncertainties; and be able to respond quickly to take advantage of opportunities and minimise risks. We held a successful taster session last week over Zoom exploring the issues people were interested in and will go live in September.

We plan to run six 1½ hour sessions over a 12-month period. Each one will feature a short input from SAMI, and then a wider facilitated discussion. Annual membership costs £500 + VAT a year (with discounts for more than one person per organisation, charities and other selected clients). 

 To register your interest please contact Jane Dowsett, jane.dowsett@samiconsulting.co.uk

_ . _

SAMI Fellows Richard Walsh and Alan Woods contributed to a report from the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries and the Building Resilient Household Group into “Building Financial Resilience of Households in the Private Rented Sector”.  Shaking up the benefit rules for renters taking out private insurance policies, putting them on an equal footing with homeowners, would result in fewer getting into financial difficulty and would help them to pay their rent. This is particularly important as renters are more likely to suffer financial hardship as a result of Covid-19.  The analysis shows that under many circumstances that this change is also beneficial to the Government as more people buy insurance to cover the whole of their rent rather than the gap between rent paid and Universal Credit housing allowance.

Huw Williams and Paul Moxey’s notes of a CRSA forum on cyber-security has been published by the Institute of Risk Management as an “Occasional Paper” – contact huw.williams@samiconsulting.co.uk for a copy.

Executive Education
Our next flagship public training workshop “Understanding the Future” will run online from 7th to 11th September 2020, in five sessions, starting at 10:00am (UK time) each day and lasting one and a half to two hours each. The course fee is £490 + VAT, and discounts may be available for self-funded individuals. For more information, or if you wish to make a booking, please email us at training@samiconsulting.co.uk   or download our Training Portfolio.

We can also design online courses specifically for your organisation; these can usually be arranged at relatively short notice if required. We offer several courses aimed at Boards and Senior Management designed to help them manage risk and seize opportunities – to “survive and thrive”.

Futures Issues
Recent population forecasts suggest that nearly every country will have shrinking populations by the end of the century because of lower fertility rates; the global population will peak around 2064. 23 nations – including Spain and Japan – are expected to see their populations halve by 2100. Countries will also age dramatically, with as many people turning 80 as there are being born.  Dramatic declines in working-age populations are predicted in countries such as India and China, which will hamper economic growth and lead to shifts in global powers.

In his blog on Millennials,  Andrew Curry argues we are seeing a generational shift, through three waves of issues which all reflect post-materialist values. These are gay rights, #MeToo and Black Lives Matter.

In response to the pandemic and its economic fallout, Spain has become the latest country to experiment with Universal Basic Income. It is offering monthly payments of up to €1,015 to the nation’s poorest families.

Spreading rock dust on farmland (enhanced rock weathering) could suck billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide from the air every year. The chemical reactions that degrade the rock particles lock the greenhouse gas into carbonates within months, and some scientists say this approach may be the best near-term way of removing CO2 from the atmosphere. It seems a simple and cheap way of beginning to tackle the challenge.

The EU has launched “A hydrogen strategy for a climate-neutral Europe” to support the decarbonisation of industry, transport, power generation and buildings across Europe.

E-waste is the fastest growing domestic waste stream worldwide and will double over the next 16 years, the UN’s Global E-waste Monitor for 2020 said.

National statistical treasure David Spiegelhalter returns to the concepts of “the hedgehog and the fox” as different forecasting styles, one of SAMI’s themes for many years.

Our Blogs 
Recent blogs have looked at thinking about the future from a variety of aspects. Firstly, does being in the middle of very uncertain times mean it’s more difficult to think about the future? Then we considered naming conventions for the future and whether ’normal’ is a word that can ever be applied. We also started to think about how the pandemic might affect some of the megatrends and drivers of change going forward. And we posted a review of an online conference about IoT and AI.

We will be taking a break next month, and return with more thoughts on the future in September.

June 2020

Despite the very welcome reduction in cases, Covid-19 is continuing to have major impacts on all aspects of our lives. A pandemic was part of the Government’s National Risk Assessment and the associated contingency planning but, as with all events, there will be important lessons to learn on both the planning and the response. There is also still a lot to be learnt about the disease and what the long-term impacts may be.  Will it be something that is contained like SARS, managed like flu, or have greater impacts leading to a new normal? Given the wide range of potential short and long-term impacts, it is vital that we make ‘Robust decisions in uncertain times.’

SAMI Associate Garry Honey ran a webinar on “Managing Uncertainty” for CQI Corporate Partners.  He explored the psychological reasons for coping poorly with uncertainty, strategies for reducing uncertainty (including delaying decisions), risk aversion and scenario analysis.

Martin Duckworth ran a two-day online training course on Futures Thinking for Yorkshire Water.  Online training is an effective substitute in many ways, though particular attention has to be paid to managing interactions.

Jonathan Blanchard Smith’s article on “Cone of Plausibility” was published in Quality World, the magazine of the Chartered Quality Institute. It explores ways of evaluating a range of outcomes and how to respond.  If you are interested in a copy of the article please contact Jonathan at jbs@samiconsulting.co.uk

Huw Williams and Paul Moxey’s notes of CRSA forum on cyber-security will shortly appear in the magazine of the Institute of Risk Management, “Enterprise Risk”.  The forum addressed the question of how to get Boards to take cyber-security seriously, why it’s not just “an IT issue”.

We are setting up an online “Futures Cohort” providing an opportunity for members to share experiences of using futures tools and techniques, and as a way of building up best practice. We are still at the early stages of planning, so please contact Jane Dowsett, jane.dowsett@samiconsulting.co.uk, if you are interested in participating and shaping how it develops.

Executive Education
We are now offering our flagship public training workshop “Understanding the Future” online. An introduction to Horizon Scanning, Scenario Planning and Futures Thinking, this course is suitable for complete beginners as well as people who have had some exposure to these techniques. Previously offered as a two-day workshop held in London, we have now re-configured the same material to be delivered online in five consecutive sessions over the course of a week.

The next course will run from 6th to 10th July 2020, in five sessions, starting at 10:00h (UK time) each day and lasting one and a half to two hours each. The course fee is £490 + VAT, and discounts may be available for self-funded individuals. For more information, or if you wish to make a booking, please email us at training@samiconsulting.co.uk   or download our Training Portfolio.

We can also design online courses specifically for your organisation; these can usually be arranged at relatively short notice if required. We offer several courses aimed at Boards and Senior Management designed to help them manage risk and seize opportunities – to “survive and thrive”.

Futures Issues
Climate change worst-case scenarios may not go far enough. Newer models prepared for the UN IPCC suggest a greater sensitivity to carbon emissions, taking the worst-case scenario from an increase of 3°C to 5°C.

Mass extinctions are accelerating.  Five hundred terrestrial vertebrate species are likely to become extinct over the next two decades unless steps are taken.  The loss of some will likely trigger a domino effect that sends others into a downward spiral, ultimately threatening entire ecosystems.

BP writes off $17.5bn as it sees Covid-19 keeping oil prices low and accelerating moves to a low carbon economy.  Some oil reserves may never be economic to develop.  

Self-driving cars would only prevent one-third of human crashes.  They will still not be able to react instantaneously so many accidents are unavoidable. This research assumed all cars were self-driving – mixing them with human drivers makes things much worse. And if the AI allows them to drive more human-like, then it opens up the potential for more human-like crashes.

Drone delivery has taken a step towards approval. The FAA has granted an Alphabet subsidiary an “air carrier certification” which clears it to make commercial deliveries in the United States. Trials are expected later this year.

South Korean cafe hires robot barista to help with social distancing. The system, which uses a coffee-making robotic arm and a serving robot, can make 60 different types of coffee and serves the drinks to customers at their seats. It can also communicate and transmit data to other devices and contains self-driving technology to calculate the best routes around the cafe.

Water vapour may be a renewable energy source. By mimicking the process that creates lightning, researchers have found they can use humid air as a battery.

Sodium-ion batteries can replace lithium-ion ones, making them cheaper and more environmentally friendly and sidestep serious human rights concerns relating to lithium extraction.

Our Blogs 
Over the past few weeks we have continued to think about what the world might look like after the pandemic. Firstly, with the second part of our blog on likely transformational scenarios, then with a look at other ways in which the world might be different. We also looked at the impact of the current situation on welfare and income protection and followed this with a review of a webinar on the future of urban transport. Latterly we returned to looking at risk with some thoughts about existential risk and our responses to it.

Best wishes to you all in these challenging times.

May 2020

As nations cautiously emerge from lockdown round the world, we continue to pay close attention to both the Covid-19 pandemic and its consequences. As we have said before, we believe it is too early to truly understand the implications, and we are particularly suspicious of headlines that read “this changes everything,” but some things are becoming clear.

Impacts on national economies, on government spending and household loss of income, seem to imply a major recession. Whether that recession is V, U, W or L shaped at least gives some bounding ranges for examining the future, but this is only one of many second and third order impacts, and it is here that our thinking really focuses – not on the pandemic, bad as it is, but what the pandemic causes, directly and indirectly. It is here that the future will be found.

We are already feeding some of that thinking into our ongoing work, for clients as well as in our research and thought leadership programmes. In particular, we see the need for informed revisions of long term scenarios in the light of those effects. Let us know if you would like us to do that for your organisation, because one thing is certain – the pandemic and its consequences is changing all our potential futures before our eyes.

SAMI are pleased to announce that we are working with the Institute for Management on a project for the European Trade Union Institute, producing scenarios and roadmaps for the future of work.

Patricia Lustig and Gill Ringland ran a webinar based on ‘In  Safe Hands’, a SAMI and z/yen project from 2012, exploring the future of Financial Services in 2020, and the effect of the Covid19 Pandemic

SAMI Fellow Richard Walsh has been appointed as a judge on the panel for the 2020 Next Generation Foresight Practitioners Awards.

We are already feeding some of that thinking into our ongoing work, for clients as well as in our research and thought leadership programmes. In particular, we see the need for informed revisions of long term scenarios in the light of those effects. Let us know if you would like us to do that for your organisation, because one thing is certain – the pandemic and its consequences is changing all our potential futures before our eyes.

We have collated our series of climate blogposts into a single document, exploring the issue through different lenses: “Climate Emergency – a PESTLE analysis”. Email huw.williams@samiconsulting.co.uk for a copy. 

Executive Education
We are now offering our flagship Futures Thinking course online. Our public training workshop “Understanding the Future” is an introduction to Horizon Scanning, Scenario Planning and Futures Thinking. It is suitable for complete beginners as well as people who have had some exposure to these techniques. Previously offered as two-day workshop held in London, we have now re-configured the same material to be delivered online in five consecutive sessions over the course of a week.

The next course will run from 8 – 12 June 2020, in five sessions, starting at 10:00h (UK time) each day and lasting one and a half to two hours each. The course fee is £490 + VAT, and discounts may be available for self-funded individuals. For more information, or if you wish to make a booking, please email us at training@samiconsulting.co.uk or look at our Training Portfolio.

We can also design online courses specifically for your organisation; these can usually be arranged at relatively short notice if required. We offer several courses aimed at Boards and Senior Management designed to help them manage risk and seize opportunities – to “survive and thrive”.

Futures Issues
We noted last month how the pandemic had stimulated the rise of telemedicine. More generally, we are seeing a shift towards trusting scientists and experts, with an increasing disdain for populism.  As well as Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance, or Anthony Fauci in the US, here are some experts you may not have been following.

The pandemic has also given rise to medical robots increasingly performing tasks that might be unsafe for people: automating testing, disinfecting surfaces, delivering food.

Lab-grown mouse cells made into muscles by 3D-printing can be controlled with part of a rat’s spinal cord, creating a 6-millimetre bio-robot. Nerves grew from the rat tissue into the muscles and made them contract, and researchers could control the robot with neurotransmitters. Eventually, the technology could be used in prosthetics.

Smart contact lenses can detect glucose levels and deliver insulin as necessary. The lens contains a glucose sensor, a drug-delivery reservoir, a wireless power receiver coil, an integrated circuit chip, and a radio-frequency communication system. It measures glucose levels in tears in real-time replacing the need for invasive fingerpricks or blood glucose measurement.

Clear skies over Germany helped photovoltaic plants produce 32,227 megawatts in one day; that’s 40% of Germany’s power, compared to the 22% produced by coal and nuclear.  The pandemic is accelerating the demise of coal power. 

Last month, fully electric cars accounted for nearly 60% of Norway’s new car market, and plug-in hybrids just over 15% – three out of four of all new cars sold.  The country looks on course to meet the target of phasing out the sale of all new fossil-fuel based cars and light commercial vehicles by 2025.

Nature noted that Physicist Alex Klotz spotted a delightful recurring error in which Google Scholar parses cafeteria lunch menus as papers, giving author credit to such luminaries as B Noodles and C Fajitas.

Our Blogs 
Recent blogs included a two-part series on business and the public good which examined the impact of the pandemic on business ethics and what might change in the future. We also blogged about some possible transformational scenarios post the pandemic and also how much might be sensible to spend on contingency plans and preparing for wildcards.

April 2020

Foresight and strategy companies like SAMI spend their time thinking about the future – how it may pan out, what the implications are for governments, organisations, charities and business, and pointing successful ways forward. An event like the Covid-19 pandemic is, though, as strange for us as it is for everyone – a sort of live scenario test, in real time, with real people and real implications. It is obviously too soon to make any concrete projections what this all means for the future – though we are clearly thinking hard about it. Mostly, though, we are thinking about our friends, family and colleagues: this is the sort of time when “We hope this letter finds you well” is sincerely meant. So all of us at SAMI really do hope this edition of Foresight & Strategy finds you well – and looking, as we are, to the time when we shall meet again in the real world.

Adapting to the lockdown will have been challenging and worrying for many.  SAMI has always been a “virtual” organisation, running most of its processes and communications online.  We use the basic version of Skype, in voice mode, for our weekly admin calls, and for work team conferences; and Skype for Business for our project for the European Commission, with other team members in Germany, Denmark and the US. Several SAMI people use Zoom for training courses, and we plan to use it for our training courses and other client workshops over the next few months.

Other tools such as MeetingSphere can be used to add more structure in facilitated workshops; outputs are captured instantly as a word or pdf.  VOIP Review looked at several free online conferencing systems including Cisco Webex, used by larger companies, and Google Hangouts.

Although online conferences cannot fully match the face-to-face experience, over the coming weeks many more people will have become familiar with the technology – and associated processes and protocols (eg not all talking at once!) – so we can expect to see remote working replacing meetings even once the pandemic is over.  Cabinet meetings were held using Zoom (despite some security concerns) and even the Commons is experimenting with “technological solutions”– maybe they could work remotely while the Palace of Westminster is being refurbished?

SAMI Principal Joe Ravetz’s forthcoming book, Deeper City, is an application of new thinking on ‘deeper complexity’ challenges such as runaway urbanization, climate change and rising inequality.  The key is to move beyond smart efficiency with ‘winner-takes-all’, towards wiser human systems where ‘winners-are-all’. Examples for strategic action, moving  from ‘smart to wise’ are presented, ranging from local neighbourhoods to global finance.

We published a review of the work of various governments and consultancies on megatrends: “Meta-Megatrends”. This is a valuable resource with which to commence a futures project. Email huw.williams@samiconsulting.co.uk for a copy.  It will also shape the way we at SAMI review and refine our own set of megatrends that we use in workshops.

We are continuing our relationship with the Chartered Quality Institute.  Jonathan Blanchard Smith has written an article for Quality World (to be published soon); Garry Honey will be running a seminar on Post-Covid scenarios based on a recent blogpost, which was also picked up by the Journal of Futures Studies.  The CQI itself published a report on the Future of Work which we will review on our blog shortly.

SAMI principal Wendy Schultz was quoted in Al Arabiya English discussing artificial intelligence and robotics innovation, their potential and current limitations.

Executive Education
We were planning to run our next public course in September, but will keep this under review and may move it online. Please let us know if you are interested. We also design courses tailored to the needs of your organisation; these can usually be arranged at relatively short notice if required. To register an interest, please contact training@samiconsulting.co.uk.

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

Futures Issues
Telemedicine has been slow to take off, but the COVID-19 outbreak has provided a spur. Both the Centre for Disease Control and World Health Organisation are advocating telemedicine to monitor patients and reduce risks of them spreading the virus by traveling to hospitals. Robots help in monitoring infected patients to limit contact with medical personnel, deliver medical supplies and disinfect wards.

3-D printing has also come to the rescue, producing a replacement valve for a reanimation device when normal supply chains had broken down.  Others are printing face shields or ventilators.

Blockchain technology has been used to develop a COVID-19 tracker that publishes up-to-date, accurate and trusted information on the spread of the disease. Health insurance companies and medical aid firms in Asia have started to use it to reduce the paperwork required for coronavirus related claims and payments.

Robots are being called upon for food deliveries in Milton Keynes, reducing social contact still further.

By analysing how lithium ions move in batteries, researchers have found how alternative electrode materials could unlock the secret to faster-charging EV batteries

The EU’s European Food Safety Authority is expected by the insect industry to endorse whole or ground mealworms, locusts, crickets and grasshoppers as being safe for human consumption within a few weeks.

“Smart agriculture” is starting to get real, as IoT and Big Data combine to help improve yields and reduce disease.

To add to the coronavirus, East Africa is facing a second even larger wave of locusts caused by climate change. The Four Horsemen are upon us.

Our Blogs
Over the last few weeks our blogs have reflected the challenging times we are living in with several posts about coronavirus and what this might mean for our future world. Firstly we looked at whether it was something we could have seen coming, then a post about what things might be like after the pandemic and latterly some scenarios for what a post-virus world could look like. These have been interspersed with some thoughts on the global satisfaction with democracy and also on what we can do when a ‘wild card’ emerges.

March 2020

SAMI is producing a new prospectus on the Government Office for Science Futures Framework contract. This makes it easier for Government departments, Agencies and other public sector bodies to commission Futures work.  Details will appear on our website in due course.

Patricia Lustig revisited the chapter that she and Gill Ringland wrote for “After Shock”, a review of 50 years since Alvin Toffler’s “Future Shock”.  They argue that younger generations are actually quite comfortable with the rapid change of technology. They don’t feel threatened at all. Rather, many of them actually feel empowered by it. They effortlessly exploit the myriad technologies at their disposal in countless ways to connect with their worlds, often to the chagrin of their parents.

The Coronavirus outbreak (or similar) is something which public health experts have seen coming for ages – always a question of “when, not if”.   It’s a classic “wildcard” to be played in almost any scenario.  The US National Intelligence Council, in “Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World”  (November 2008) suggested the potential emergence of a global pandemic. Both the cause of the global pandemic (Coronavirus) and its source (China) were mentioned exactly. The UK Cabinet Office covered “Emerging infectious diseases” in their 2017 National Risk Register, suggesting that the risk had increased since 2015 because of global warming and globalisation.

Of course, this should have meant contingency plans were developed. It is also important to test these plans against a practical worst case scenario, to determine the capability to meet the challenges, train responders and identify potential areas of weakness. Scenarios are a powerful tool for both the analysis and management of risks. Foresight tools also help to anticipate future risks, where there is often a lack of data.

Now, we should be thinking about what might change permanently – will we get global collaboration on disease vigilance and sharing of data, or will populists close borders and repel all “filthy foreigners”?  Will the impact on global supply chains be irreversible?  Will working from home and remote learning become much more common? What are the second- and third-order effects?  Let us know what you think at: info@samiconsulting.co.uk.

Ex-Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, and top economist John Kay, have written a book of foresight, called “Radical Uncertainty: Decision-making for an unknowable future”.  Its thesis is that the future cannot be forecast, and that quantitative predicitons give us a false understanding of our power to make predictions. This chimes with SAMI’s approach to “robust decisions in uncertain times”.  Just because the future is unknowable doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think about it – in fact you need to think harder and more widely.

Executive Education
We are planning to run our next public course in September, but we have not fixed a specific date at this time: please let us know if you are interested in this. We also design courses tailored to the needs of your organisation; these can usually be arranged at relatively short notice if required. To register an interest, please contact training@samiconsulting.co.uk.

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

Futures Issues
Tropical forests are losing their ability to absorb CO2 owing to the impacts of higher temperatures, droughts and deforestation, and could even turn into sources of CO2 within a decade.

Local and regional governments across Switzerland are embracing civic technology to understand the views of their citizens, especially on planning and development proposals. Several collaborative platforms, including Crossiety (dubbed the “digital village square”) and Decidim, are being used to involve citizens directly in the decision-making process. And the London Borough of Camden and others are using a service from Commonplace for consultation on planning and policy

Three-quarters of the world’s population now live in urban areas, according to the EC Joint Research Council’s new Atlas of the Human Planet. From 1975-2015, the share of people living in urban areas has increased from 69% to 76%. Over the same period, the number of countries with more than 90% of their population in urban areas doubled from 16 to 32.

CRISPR–Cas9 gene therapy has  been administered, for the first time, directly into the body a person with a genetic condition that causes blindness . Previously the technique has been used to edit the genomes of cells that have been removed from the body and the material then infused back into the patient.

Honeywell International claims to have achieved a breakthrough in quantum computing, with a machine that is 4 times as powerful as previous ones – notably IBM’s Q System One with a 20-qubit processor. Honeywell plans to offer cloud-based access to the computer within three months.

The health tracking market – smart bracelets, smart beds and smart chest straps – is projected to reach 25% of the US adult population by 2022.  Growth is mainly in smartwatches and “hearables” – the fitness market seems to be slowing.

An AI system has discovered a powerful antibiotic that kills some of the most dangerous drug-resistant bacteria in the world.  The system was first trained on the atomic and molecular features of nearly 2,500 drugs and natural compounds, and how well or not the substance blocked the growth of the bug E coli. Then it searched a library of more than 6,000 compounds under investigation for treating various human diseases. Rather than looking for any potential antimicrobials, the algorithm focused on compounds that looked effective but unlike existing antibiotics. This boosted the chances that the drugs would work in radical new ways that bugs had yet to develop resistance to.

Our Blogs 
In the middle of February we blogged about the possible economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak and whether it indicates how frail the global economy might be. We then published blogs on topics ranging from a review of a meeting at the Reform Club where University of Helsinki academics spoke about issues of climate change, then some thoughts on predicting the future and the accuracy of forecasts and finally some further ideas around decarbonising oil.

February 2020

As part of the Government Office for Science Futures Framework contract, we are preparing a prospectus outlining SAMI Consulting’s range of services and previous experience.  This document will be used as part of the GO-Science “fair” in March, and will also be available to download from our website.  Although targeted at potential Government clients, the content will be a good explanation of who we are and what we do that many will find helpful.

A Twitter network analysis mapping relationships among 1000 futurists and futures-adjacent Twitter users showed that Jennifer Jarratt, Maree Conway, and SAMI Principal Wendy Schultz (@wendyinfutures) were the futurists most followed by their peers.

 

Professor Paul Moxey and SAMI Principal Huw Williams will be presenting to Directors from the Finance sector at a special half-day meeting of The Transparency Forum on 19th March. Topic covered will include cognitive bias and risk management, key drivers of change and approaches to foresight. Contact huw.williams@samiconsulting.co.uk for more information.

One of the sessions at the CRSA Forum meeting on cybersecurity was by Daniel Roberts on “Facing Reality: Convincing Directors and Boards to invest in Cyber Security”.  As part  of his talk he led the group through a couple of case studies that illustrated very well the competing real-world pressures that mean that cyber-security doesn’t get the attention and investment it needs. Details are available on his blog site here. Notes of the meeting will be published by the Institute of Risk Management’s shortly. Contact paul@moxey.co.uk for more information.

Executive Education

Our next Futures Thinking course is planned for 23rd/24th March 2020. To register an interest, please contact training@samiconsulting.co.uk.

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

The Consumer Electronics Show produced its usual range of the weird and wonderful. ABI Research identified 33 “key take-aways”, and noted a degree of realism creeping in – away from fully autonomous vehicles to integrated systems, and some genuine 5G use cases.

Researchers have created a robot hand that sweats. The soft, clammy appendage regulates its own temperature by secreting water on to its “skin” when it gets too warm. The water then removes heat as it evaporates into the air. This approach could stop robots overheating in hot environments.

In an effort to reduce the risk to health professionals, a telemedical robot is being used to treat a patient with the coronavirus. The robot is equipped with a stethoscope, and enables doctors to communicate via a large screen.

It may not have felt like it, but 2019 was the best year ever. Every single day

Historically, almost half of all humans died in childhood; as recently as 1950, 27 percent of all children still died by age 15 – now that figure has dropped to about 4 percent.

Our Blogs 

We have covered several different areas in our recent blogs. Firstly, we looked at whether eliminating fossil fuels is possible in the shorter term; then continued our climate emergency series with a look at how change could be supported through the legal landscape before completing the series with a summary which included updates on changes since we began the series 6 months ago. More recently we looked at risk and what the real level of understanding of this subject is.

January 2020

Welcome to 2020 – we hope you are ready for it!  Thinking about the “known unkowns” we will at least have to deal with:

  • UK trade deals with EU and maybe US – will they be sorted or not?
  • Labour’s new leader: what approach will they take? What difference will that make?
  • What happens next in the Middle East tinderbox?
  • US election – who will be the Democrat challenger and how radical will be their policies? Will Trump win his second term?
  • Hong Kong – will China back down or send in troops?
  • Climate emergencies and UK hosting COP26 – will progress be made at last?


David Lye is stepping down as SAMI’s People Director, though he will continue to be involved in various projects – we would like to convey our many thanks for all his support over the years.

Bill Aiken will take his place, and also lead SAMI’s approaches to the Government sector and SAMI’s training offering.

Bill specialises in strategy development, organisational transformation and capability development.  He has worked with a wide range of clients from engineering firms and global consultancies to the European Commission, Government Departments including the Home Office, the Ministry of Defence, the NHS and FCO, and security agencies and Police Forces.

He has previously acted as People and Change Director in a number of consulting firms.

Government enquiries into companies such as Carillion and Thomas Cook showed that the firms complied with statutory reporting and had been audited by reputable accountants, yet both failed spectacularly in circumstances that in retrospect could shout out poor governance. Is this because of a lack of skill or a lack of will? SAMI Associate Garry Honey explores this question in a recent blogpost on the ICSA website.

The Conservative manifesto promised a better deal for the many families in the private rented sector. In a blogpost for the Income Protection Task Force, SAMI Principal Richard Walsh outlines its main provisions and effects on Income Protection, and describes how the “Building Resilient Households Group” will be engaging with Government.

After Shock: In 1970, futurists Alvin and Heidi Toffler’s sensational bestseller, Future Shock described a world where “shattering stress and disorientation” would inevitably be brought about by “too much change in too short a period of time.”  Marking the 50-year anniversary of the publication of Future Shock, After Shock brings together the world’s foremost futurists and thought leaders in a compendium that sparks imagination and inspires solutions to the many challenges we face.

Contributors include more than 100 of the world’s foremost futurists, including David Brin, Ray Kurzweil, Lord Martin Rees, – and the unbeatable combination of SAMI Fellow Emeritus Gill Ringland and SAMI Associate Patricia Lustig.

After Shock is published on 4th February 2020. Get it in bookshops or on Amazon.

Professor Paul Moxey and SAMI Principal Huw Williams will be presenting to Directors from the Finance sector at a special half-day meeting of The Transparency Forum on 19th March. Topic covered will include cognitive bias and risk management, key drivers of change and approaches to foresight. Contact huw.williams@samiconsulting.co.uk for more information.

The CRSA Forum meeting on cybersecurity on 17th January 2020 sold out. Notes of the meeting will appear on the Institute of Risk Management’s website in due course. Contact paul@moxey.co.uk for more information.

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

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
Brainwave interfaces are developing fast. At this year’s CES, BrainCo demonstrated a headband which reads brainwaves and uses them to control Scalextric type cars. The implications are huge, once you connect the system to the internet – in effect it’s telephathy.

Lignin, a natural polymer intertwined around the cellulose fibres, that gives wood its brownish hue, could be used to generate electricity from heat energy sources just 5 °C warmer than their surroundings.  It may be possible to create shirts made of treated cotton, which is nearly pure cellulose, that could harvest body heat, storing it in a battery to recharge phones, or charging them wirelessly in pockets.

Rolls-Royce unveils all-electric plane.  The plane is part of a Rolls-Royce initiative called ACCEL – short for “Accelerating the Electrification of Flight – and has a target speed of 300+ MPH (480+ KMH) and is expected to trial in late Spring 2020.

A pilot project injecting zero-carbon hydrogen into an existing gas network is now fully operational. Called HyDeploy, the pilot involves injecting hydrogen into Keele University’s existing natural gas network, which supplies 30 faculty buildings and 100 domestic properties. Hydrogen will account for up to 20% of the gas mix in the network. If it’s successful and were to be scaled up across England, researchers at Keele estimate it could mitigate the emission of six million tonnes of CO2e emissions annually.

The FDA has approved an ingestible event marker from the digital health company etectRx. This is the first device of its kind to transmit digital messages from within the body to an external receiver without need for direct skin contact. The device emits a very low power digital message from within the patient after it is ingested and activated by the patient’s stomach fluid. This is then verified by a reader on a lanyard and forwarded to a secure smartphone app.

Global shipments of wearables jumped 94.6 percent year-on-year in the third quarter to 84.5 million, following growth of 85 percent in the second quarter. Demand was driven by new products in the hearables market which accounted for almost half of products sold in Q3, followed by wristbands and smartwatches. The rise of smart assistants in the home and on the phone also helped increase demand for wearables. The market is well on its way to becoming a mass market device category, rather than one mainly focused on health and fitness.

Birth rates in China are falling dramatically, from 17.23 million in 2017 to 15.23 million in 2018 – a fall of 11.6% in just one year. We can now confidently project an ageing Chinese population in just a few years.  What is the impact on geo-politics?

Our Blogs 
In our recent blogs we reviewed our Brexit scenarios in the light of the December General Election, looked back over what happened during 2019 and have revisited the question about whether the coming year will develop a ‘new normal’ of civil unrest and revolution – a follow  up to our previous blog on this topic. We have also continued our series on the climate crisis by looking at some of the social and political trends.

Contact us

SAMI Consulting Ltd, 1 Toomers’ Wharf, Newbury, RG14 1DY, UK