THE DAYS AFTER TOMORROW – WHAT IF FUTURE BECOMES REALITY?

Almost exactly ten years ago, we in the future_bizz network created the scenario study “Future Living”. It was on the matter of how our lives will be look like in Europe in 2030. Today, a decade later, it unfortunately seems to turn out that the study predicted actual developments quite well. The question is now: How can we deal with the consequences arising from the issues coming along with them?

By Dr. Friedhelm Böttcher, Böttcher Consulting and Michael Riedemann, Compete GmbH

Of course, some terms from that time no longer fit exactly, but the results of the study predicted actual developments quite well. The work was initially planned as an update of previous studies. But it soon became clear to us that we were dealing with larger, more far-reaching changes and that a simple update was not enough. Like in the previous study, we realized that developments in many areas were occurring much faster than expected by us in our project team.

Five identified drivers of developments …

Out of a total of more than 40 influencing variables taken into account, five drivers crystallized from the scenario calculation that determined the basic structure of the scenarios:

  • Environmental change, triggered by climate change and other human interventions in the world around us
  • Lack of resources, triggered by global population growth
  • The effects of globalisation, in which – beyond the global exchange of goods –issues of participation and distribution of power must be more strongly considered
  • Changes in the world of work due to the consequences of digitization and technological change as a whole
  • Increasing complexity of the world in combination with the ever-faster dynamics of developments which make it difficult to recognize and understand changes, make decisions and intervene in a controlling manner

… five scenarios

As a result, five scenarios were found with very different development paths:

Scenario 1: ‘Energy’ – A connected affluent society

In this picture, it was widely recognized that we can overcome great challenges only through cooperation as a central value. Societies would have prevailed over individual and national egoisms, living up to responsibility as well as goal-oriented, sustainable interaction of society, politics and economy.

The intercultural networking of globally oriented citizens and the close cooperation of mutually supportive, albeit different, political systems would have generated a high level of problem-solving competence. The high level of technical development of globally networked communication systems and other technologies offered an ideal platform for developments. Complexity and heterogeneity were accepted and sensibly used to achieve comprehensive emergence.

Scenario 2:Forced Harmony’

In response to the dramatic changes in their environment, in this scenario people would have undergone a significant change in values and learned that ‘less is more’. This change in values would go hand in hand with new forms of social recognition, a noticeable feminization of society, a pronounced awareness of ecology but also considerable social pressure to change behaviour. The understanding of “freedom” had changed considerably and was hardly comparable with the characteristics of the past.

Scenario 3: ‘Blue Steel’ – Polarized world

Prosperity and stability of society would exist only in highly volatile economic islands. Thanks to advanced technology, the damage caused by climate change could be kept out of the reach of these islands. However, the changes in the world of work would also be felt here. Even in the world’s affluent zones, unemployment were high. A strict separation had been established between people who work or have access to jobs and those who do not work permanently or are poorly qualified. The middle class had disappeared. There were only a few “winners” and many “losers” left. Social problems had not been solved and society’s ability to develop was severely limited. A strong retro trend towards the restoration of old models of rule and relationships could be observed. The emancipation of women had been largely repressed despite all the conflicts associated with it. This had been triggered by the large number of men who had lost their basis for existence. At the same time, fundamentalist beliefs such as Islamism or fundamentalist Christianity had increasingly gained influence.

Technology had been intensively developed, but was a technology of the elite to an increasing extent. The Internet as a global, free medium had been replaced by a parallel system with different user groups and possibilities. Hard, centralistic technology concepts were preferred, negative effects on society and the environment were passed on to the weak regions and social milieus.

The social integration capacity would be low and migration by people from foreign countries was almost completely prevented.

The borders had been closed by a fully militarily controlled protection system. Society would need soldiers to protect its borders and defend its resources and the transport of goods.

Scenario 4: ‘Ginger’ – Forced Renunciation

In the “Ginger” scenario, a disintegration of the established social structures would lead to locally shaped functional units that operate at a low level of prosperity and stability. Old socialist ideologies were revived leading to a new world order with little dynamism.

In the “forced renunciation” scenario, women had taken power. Trust in the male-driven world had been lost. Many people assumed that the “alpha animals” of the past had driven mankind into the abyss and that the values of male society were not suited to solve complex problems in a constructive manner. Power claims of leaders or experts as masterminds, thought leadership and all other aspects of dominance were fundamentally and radically rejected.

The main drivers of this development were scarcity, the collapse of established structures and solutions, as well as increasing doubts that technological development could bring a sustainable solutions to people’s problems.

The development was also accelerated by the “mothers’ uprising” that had begun in some ‘Third World’ countries, which faced total collapse due to mismanagement, corruption and violence .

The hardened structures with permanent defence of property rights in Europe and the USA had not permit any change and could not be the driver of a positive development. Structural changes, stimulated and supported by microcredits and other forms of decentralized development, showed good results, but these were repeatedly shattered by warlords, corrupt politicians and interventions from industrialized countries to secure the supply of raw materials. In the end, a radical renewal of Africa was set in motion by the uprising, which had spread to all continents.

The development in the “forced renunciation” scenario would guarantee a secure livelihood at a low level. The high proportion of physical labour prevented the dynamic development of the world – the degree of innovation was low. The parallel change in values would base on morality and renunciation; if this would be not sufficient, hard rules and laws were used. For example, a change in diet in the form of the renunciation of meat was forced by strict prohibitions. An individual resource budget prescribed what and how much each person may consume.

 

Scenario 5: Instability – collapse and complete unpredictability

The consequences in the fifth scenario “Instability” were even more far-reaching: the global climate catastrophe had occurred. Social and technological problems could not be solved. There was global instability in all areas.

National governments were largely unable to act and new power structures of political power had emerged. The world would be dominated by military blocs, “drop-out communities”, gangs, as well as all variants of religious communities and clans. Besides the regional, but also very different economic systems, a shadow economy with a pronounced barter trade had emerged. In addition, armed conflicts were widespread.


Most scenarios show a rather gloomy future – and now?

Today we observe that all five scenarios are developing in parallel, in their own way with different characteristics and in the different regions and societies. We see ourselves increasingly confronted with the instabilities described. Furthermore there is a clear possibility that we are moving towards a tipping point which would, for a long time, negatively determine the fundamental development of the world we live in.

Sometimes it is, of course, more comfortable to be refuted than confirmed by developments. However, we cannot and do not want to close our eyes to the facts. Four of the five scenarios lead to a rather unpleasant future for all or at least a large part of the people. They goes as far as an extensive destruction of their basis of existence. But we refuse to accept them as inevitable.

Fortunately, there is also a scenario that shows an alternative with a quite positive possible development. But there is a snag to it, since it requires us to fundamentally break with existing thought models and specific action patterns. Furthermore, the fifth picture does not offer clear instructions for action, but rather raises crucial questions to ask.

Why is scenario 1 so difficult to implement – and why Cooperative Value Creation does play a key role in it?

The image of a “Connected Affluent Society” is far from being an idyll, demanding a lot from all of us. At its core, cooperation is not an option for action, but a necessarily accepted value. It goes far beyond the collaboration of people and companies with clearly defined personal interests. Which does not mean denying our own interests, but rather to develop the ability to recognize our individual interests as part of the common advantages of cooperation in sometimes very complex and overarching contexts. We must move to a new level of social development. It is not, as in the past, about the development and implementation of utopias as “places that do not (yet) exist”. Rather, it is about the transformation of living worlds through the intellectual, mental and concrete ability of cooperation at new levels and proportions.

But how can we overcome our reductionism here? Our tendency to simplify complex contexts that have allowed so many utopias to turn into totalitarian nightmares? How can we recognize the importance of models that go far beyond our own horizon of experience? How can we learn to deal with complex target systems? What can we do to achieve Cooperative Value Creation as part of and with the help of ecosystems? And, by the way, what is Cooperative Value Creation actually?

When we distinguish cooperation as a central value from classical collaboration, the limits and hurdles become clear. Cooperation is a fundamental human ability and a prerequisite for the existence of a society. Nevertheless, “Cooperative Value Creation” in the context of companies and services relevant to business management as well as in organisations and societies goes beyond the dimensions of what has been known so far. One of the challenges is that the participants have to develop the ability to co-evolve. The classical competition with its displacement mechanisms must be developed into a cooperation across the borders of departments, companies, industries, social interest groups, regions and nations without completely eliminating them. Very complex relationships must be recognized as relevant to one’s own interests.  This in turn brings the acquisition of new communication channels and opportunities to the fore. It will be also important to avoid “enslaving cooperation” as well as to place joint value creation in context that is understood and accepted on the basis of equivalence. However, these are only some of the many challenges that arise if we want to achieve the goal of scenario 1. Many opportunities and risks will only reveal themselves on our journey towards such a society model. Nevertheless, it is worth pursuing this path if we want to prevent the full realisation of negative visions of the future on a large, global scale.

Translation based on using DeepL

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