3 Major Challenges

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When looking into the future, Foresight addresses three major challenges:

1. Complexity

Cause and effect relationships are not always obvious. There may be many reasons for this: causal factors may interact; there may be long time delays between the causes and effects; and there may be inter-societal differences, intervening variables and other problems. Many experts argue that the world is becoming ever more complex due to the pace of technological change and the greater global interconnectedness of financial and economic systems.

2. Uncertainty

Many relationships are too complex to unravel completely. Even simple relationships may be associated with high uncertainty if the knowledge base does not exist or if people are powerless to affect the outcome. In many situations, there are factors that are unknown but potentially “knowable”; thus the term “residual uncertainty” is sometimes preferred to indicate that the foresight process needs to deal with the uncertainty that remains once the best possible analysis has been completed.

3. Ambiguity

Differing interpretations of identical information and data are possible because people have different interests and beliefs. The differences may not be about the available information but instead about the policy decisions and actions that should follow. For example, if the risks of using a particular technology are highly uncertain, Person 1 may argue that we should not take the risk of using it, while Person 2 may say there is no evidence of risk so we can go ahead. Ambiguity is more likely where there is high complexity and high uncertainty, but it is also possible where the underlying science is quite simple.