Avainsana-arkisto: foresight

The Pandemic Triggered a Futures Tsunami

Professor Emerita Sirkka Heinonen:

Systematic thinking about futures has been practiced in our society at various levels – in the academic world and in educational institutions, in the field of public administration at the state, regional and municipal levels, as well as in companies and non-governmental organisations. However, it is the pandemic that has now unlocked the heavy gates to the futures realm – opened the eyes of actors to see the critical nature of foresight and the exponentially growing need for futures work.

Anticipating the future is no longer a luxury in ivory towers or a proactive preoccupation for the few, but simply a categorical imperative for us all to survive in a turbulent world. My blog title is ambiguous – first, it means this wide-ranging and dramatic “reawakening to the futures” triggered by a tsunami-like pandemic – all organisations should have a strategy for the future. A forward-looking futures strategy means that, in addition to and on top of a normal strategy, a longer-term strategy is developed that looks at issues and causal chains broadly and using peripheral vision. Let us look at what is happening in the world around us and in the operating environment beyond our own domain. The long term can boldly reach even a hundred years from now (Heinonen et al. 2018).

Organisations need to create future trajectories, firstly, on how to cope with the conditions of a pandemic and on what all the entangled effects it will have in the short and long term. Second, the blog title suggests that the future will come as a surprise – i.e. it is pregnant with wild cards and black swans. Surprises are the new normal (Heinonen et al 2017). Like a tsunami, traditional practices and accustomed ways may turn upside down or towards totally new paths. Such a tsunami of the future can also mark the beginning of a new “good” – the budding seeds of development are strengthened with flexibility and perseverance. At its worst, a future tsunami could mean that the “futures Angst” suppresses hope for the future (Interview of Steinmüller). Concerns about illness, death, and livelihoods can blur the future into non-existence. This should be prevented in every way, and education, research and scientific communication have a serious role to act here. (Ministry of Education and Culture)

We cannot avoid uncertainties and surprises, we cannot control them, but instead we can use futures knowledge to anticipate them, to prepare for them, to make them less harmful and to become futures resilience. The actual surprises may still be coming and rise from the multifaceted effects of the pandemic on society. A pandemic is like an earthquake – its aftermath is at least equally unpredictable.

A Pandemic is Testing Future Resilience

The pandemic caused by the corona virus shook and will shake Finland and the whole world for a long time to come. It acts as an epochal divider in the pre-pandemic and post-pandemic periods. The progression of the pandemic and its consequences, as well as the measures and attitudes triggered by the crisis, appear to be quite different in different countries. A pandemic tests society’s futures resilience – how well society is able to react to a situation, decide on relevant measures and emerge from a crisis. Futures resilience is first and foremost about how society emerges from a pandemic-induced crisis and how the factors that led to it are identified and managed. Second, and at least as important element in futures resilience, is to learn from what has happened and from the cause-and-effect chains of events for the future – through systematic forward thinking and holistic proactivity, and anticipation of uncertainties and risks.

The pandemic converges with the basic principles of thinking about the future – it stops us to reflect things in a broader and longer perspective, and calls into question many things: efficiency thinking, global production chains, free movement, air travel, and eating habits – to name a few.

This pandemic struck like a tsunami, it took us by surprise, although in several foresight studies and scenarios, a pandemic has been brought forward as a standard example of a surprising event that, when realised, has dramatic effects. However, scenarios generally have not delved deeper into the consequences of a pandemic for society. But now the pandemic itself has also caused a “scenario tsunami” – scenarios about the pandemic, its effects and survival have been constructed around the world. The newly released COVID-19 scenarios of the Millennium Project (Millennium Project COVID Scenarios Team 2020) were commissioned by the United States Red Cross. They can be modified and used for deliberation of coronavirus scenarios in different contexts and countries. The set of traditional three scenarios (BAU, pessimistic and optimistic) is based on the results of the four delphis (MP RealTime Delphis), which are annexed to the report. The confidence of the general public and the cohesion of society turned out to be the alleged necessary criteria for surviving the pandemic with decency. The risk in the combat against the virus is to compromise freedoms – especially that of assembly and mobility. At both national and global levels, there is a need for strong and wise leadership that distinguishes between what is known, what is assumed, and what is mere disinformation or purposeful misleading.

For the first time, the summer seminar of the Finnish Society for Futures Studies (FSFS) “The Future on the Watershed” was organised completely virtual. As part of the FSFS’s 40th anniversary, a short film competition was also held to visualise life after the pandemic. The winner was the dream-like work “Isolation 3.20” by Amanda Gutierrez and Tuomo Tiisala, which evoked diverse thoughts and images. As a kind of sparring (outside of the competition) from the organising team, I made my own video manifesto about life after the pandemic “We will Survive”. Visualisation of foresight material is becoming an important channel for futures communication and interaction. I call for bold efforts for visualisation of scenarios, for example in the form of videos.

A Place to Stop and Rethink

With the limitations caused by a pandemic, it is good to stop to think about what you consider important in life. This pause also gives way to the cultural model of slow life. Not everything needs to be done efficiently and on a tight schedule. A slow life model forced by a pandemic leads many to virus-free summer cottage living. The periphery can become a refuge for densely populated city dwellers. Indeed, one of the effects of the pandemic may be linked to the rethinking of rural / urban stances and the dismantling of the dichotomy. The importance of the natural environment such as forests, parks and coasts is gaining momentum. Reducing physical contact for fear of limitations and infection has opened windows and doors to nature and physical exercise. If outdoor activities in nature remain a permanent form, even for those who did not do so much before the pandemic, one can even talk about the effects on public health. There will also be new demand for space design and landscaping. For urban planning, the pandemic will be an interesting and urgent challenge – how to add green spaces to the urban structure and how to enable citizens to move around in natural sites and urban spaces, even in the conditions of a viral epidemic. As the latest “discovery” washed ashore in the pandemic tsunami, i.e. as a recent new research topic, the forms, ways and innovations of using a safe urban space for a pandemic or other emergency come to mind. The same applies to the possibilities offered by the use of geographic information systems (GIS) and artificial intelligence (AI).

During the coronavirus pandemic and its worrying economic and social impacts, humanity has received its first global “timeout”. We should rethink all institutions. Can we use the time of this stop wisely? Let us think about what does not change and what we do not want to change? Humans are social animals. Our need for human interaction and connection to natural will not diminish. Solidarity, helping and caring are the qualities that make a human being truly human.

This blog post is based on a longer statement I was invited to write to the Committee for the Future of Finnish Parliament where I also included a PESTEC table on the effects of the corona pandemic. The Committee for the Future has compiled all the expert opinions it has requested on the good and bad consequences of the coronary pandemic in the short and long term published in June 2020.

Sirkka Heinonen
Professor Emerita
Member of the Club of Rome
Chair of the Helsinki Node of the Millennium Project


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References

Heinonen, Sirkka (2020) The pandemic tests the futures resilience of Finnish society – Peeks into the consequences of the corona pandemic in the short and long term, p. 21–30. In: Report of the Parliamentary Committee for the Future TuVJ 1/2020 The good and bad effects of the corona pandemic in the short and long term. (In Finnish)

Heinonen, Sirkka – Kurki, Sofi – Ruotsalainen, Juho – Salminen, Hazel – Kuusi, Osmo & Zavialova, Sofia (2018) One hundred years of blame or clay – why and how to anticipate one hundred years? Futura 1/2018, 5–18. (In Finnish)

Heinonen, Sirkka – Karjalainen, Joni – Ruotsalainen, Juho & Steinmüller, Karlheinz (2017) Surprise as the New Normal – Implications for Energy Security. European Journal of Futures Research (2017) 5:12.

Heinonen, Sirkka (2020) Interview of Karlheinz Steinmüller on the deepening VUCA World and Surprises by Sirkka Heinonen at the Finnish Futures Research Centre (FFRC), Helsinki 2020. Audio and text.

Millennium Project Covid Scenarios Team (2020) Three Futures of the COVID-19 Pandemic in the United States January 1, 2022. Millennium Project. Washington D.C.

Ministry of Education and Culture (2020) Researchers’ views on the effects of the corona epidemic and the measures needed. Ministry of Education and Culture, 3 April 2020. Sirkka Heinonen / FFRC one of the authors.

Finnish Society for Futures Studies (2020) We Will Survive – Life Post-Pandemic. Organizer’s PR contribution video to the Call for short Films by the Finnish Society for Futures Studies (FSFS).

Tsunami photo: Smim Bipi at Pixabay.com

Diverse foresight helps in facing surprising futures

Matti Minkkinen, Laura Pouru & Aleksi Neuvonen:

The state of emergency caused by the coronavirus crisis has raised many kinds of discussions and reflections on the future throughout the society. We see new calculations and models of virus progression every day, and risks and uncertainties are considered by both decision makers and citizens. It can be said that the crisis has momentarily opened up the future: at the moment, the future does not seem like a self-evident continuation of the past, but instead many things are now open to us as uncertain and possible.

Foresight helps in responding to the changing world

The corona crisis highlights the importance of foresight. Foresight can be defined as organized, explicit work on the future that provides an understanding of alternative futures and strengthens decision-making. Foresight is, of course, necessary in the midst of a crisis. However, it is even more important to anticipate possible crisis situations and to act proactively so that crises do not develop.

As the world changes rapidly, the importance of foresight becomes even more pronounced. If the events in China’s Wuhan Wildlife Market can shake the world with their consequences, what kind of upheavals can the future hold? Changes do not happen one at a time, but simultaneously: the climate, work, democracy and many other things are all changing.

Finland has an internationally acclaimed national foresight system. It includes, for example, the Government’s report on the Future, the ministries’ futures reviews, foresight work carried out at the regional level, the Parliament’s Committee for the Future and various thematic foresight concentrations. Foresight is conducted in Finland by a wide range of actors and networks in the public sector, companies and the third sector. Indeed, national foresight can be seen as an ecosystem rather than a system. The National Foresight 2020 project mapped the situation of Finland’s national foresight ecosystem through surveys, interviews and workshops, and proposes measures to develop the ecosystem. How should the Finnish foresight system be developed in order to meet the challenges of the 2020s?

The many faces of foresight

The research project discovered that considering the rapidly changing circumstances, the foresight work conducted in the Finnish foresight system is one-sided. For instance, futures information is mainly collected from one’s close environment, and for the majority of actors, foresight is based on forecasting likely developments rather than exploring new opportunities or surprises. There are exceptions, but a large number of organizations consider relatively narrow future horizons in their foresight work. If we look straight ahead towards the probable future, will we notice the events in the Wuhan Market? Would it be worth looking at the world more like a horse, with eyes on both sides of the head?

There is no one correct perspective on foresight. Foresight work requires several different perspectives and methods depending on the situation. Let’s go back to the coronavirus as an example. Once the crisis has erupted, short and medium-term forecasts and modeling are needed. In the longer term, a broad radar is needed to sense where the next Wuhan Market events could be. In the coming years, we will probably listen with more sensitive ears to epidemiologists’ interpretations of the world than in the last ten years. But at the same time, one should be able to identify new phenomena that have not yet been experienced. However, in addition to being prepared, we also need positive visions of the kind of future society that we want to build. We must also be able to look beyond the crisis.

Different approaches to foresight can be illustrated with six foresight frames (Minkkinen, Auffermann & Ahokas 2019). The predictive and planning frames are needed in day-to-day operations and to meet the challenges of the near future. For example, the regional foresight work on labor, education and competence needs largely looks at probable developments. Scenaric and visionary frames look further into the future and take into account more uncertainties and alternative options. For example, the joint scenario work of the Finnish ministries seeks to outline alternative development paths for major transformations, such as the changing working life.

In an unpredictable and rapidly changing world, an increasingly critical and transformative approach to foresight is needed. In order for national foresight to meet the challenges of the 2020s and beyond, actors need to be able to constantly question and renew their own perceptions of the future. However, uncertainty also means that new opportunities open up for making the future. For example, innovations related to ecological sustainability can open up new paths, even if the future at the end of the road is not clear.

Strengthening the national foresight ecosystem

In our research material, only a small number of actors placed a strong emphasis on surprises, experiments and proactively influencing their operating environment in their foresight work. The same actors also tended to favor more unusual methods (such as games) and sources of information (such as information collected from citizens). However, it is particularly this kind of broad view of foresight that needs to be increased in national decision-making, in addition to forecasts, scenarios, and planning.

The national foresight ecosystem needs all the foresight approaches described above. Actors who do foresight in different ways can find their places in the system and complement each other’s foresight work by networking. The Finnish National Foresight Network coordinated by the Prime Minister’s office is already doing valuable work in bringing various foresight actors together. In the foresight ecosystem updated for the 2020’s, better dialogue, information flow and coordination are needed to ensure that the foresight objectives and approaches of the different subsystems best serve national foresight as a whole. In addition, the link between conducted foresight work and policy-making needs to be strengthened through new approaches. The relatively weak international links of the ecosystem also need to be strengthened. The growth soil of the ecosystem can be nurtured by democratizing foresight work and developing futures literacy as a general capacity within society. In this way, Finland can be better prepared before the next crisis situation comes knocking on the door.

Matti Minkkinen (MA), Project Researcher, PhD Researcher, Finland Futures Research Centre, University of Turku

Laura Pouru (MA, M.Soc.Sc), Project Manager, PhD Researcher, Finland Futures Research Centre, University of Turku

Aleksi Neuvonen (PhD), Senior Advisor, Demos Helsinki

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Pouru, Laura – Minkkinen, Matti – Auffermann, Burkhard – Rowley, Christopher – Malho, Maria & Neuvonen, Aleksi (2020) Kansallinen ennakointi Suomessa 2020. Valtioneuvoston selvitys- ja tutkimustoiminnan julkaisusarja 2020:17. 91 s. ISSN 2342-6799, ISBN PDF 978-952-287-948-6.
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Photo by kazuend on Unsplash

An Emerging Technology Challenge: Digital Twins

Mikkel Stein Knudsen and Jari Kaivo-oja:

With Digital Twins, organisations can not only create mirrors of real-world objects and processes but integrate physical and virtual worlds through bidirectional flows of information. With real-time simulations and intelligent algorithms, Digital Twins shifts the focus of data-driven operations from ex-post monitoring to ex-ante predictions and optimization in increasingly complex environments. Digital Twins are said to revolutionize the manufacturing industry, but it may also have major impacts on future studies and the general ways organisations anticipate the future. A Digital Twin development can be a new advanced form of scenario planning.

Finland Futures Research Centre takes part in the project Manufacturing  4.0  (2018–2020) for the Strategic Research Council at the Academy of Finland. Our contribution includes technological foresight related to the identification of promising technologies for the future manufacturing landscape in Finland. The concept of digital twins has featured heavily in our early scanning, as one of the most enterprising new advanced manufacturing technologies.

As the embodiment of Cyber-Physical Systems, Digital Twins has become one of the most hyped technologies of the so-called Industry 4.0. According to a comment in Nature in September 2019, “Digital twins – precise, virtual copies of machines or systems – are revolutionizing industry” (Tao & Qi, 2019). Many major companies already use digital twins, while half of all corporations may use them by 2021 (Gartner). For example, in Finland, Nokia is focusing strongly on Digital Twin challenges.

Digital twins are part of a vast shift in the world’s economy towards ‘mirror worlds’ as a new dimension of human life based on and fuelled by data. The emergence of these mirror worlds will bring about a distinct economy, and require new markets, infrastructure, institutions, businesses, and geopolitical arrangements, according to a recent special report in The Economist.

What are Digital Twins?

In its original form, a Digital Twin is the virtual model of a process, product or service, or ‘a digital representation that mirrors a real-life object, process or system’ (Panetta, 2018). While no general and precise definition of the features and scopes of Digital Twins has been reached (Cimino et al., 2019), a consensus appears of certain characteristics distinguishing ‘real’ Digital Twins from related virtual replications.

Kritzinger et al., 2018 operate with concepts of Digital Models, Digital Shadows, and Digital Twins (see figure 1). What sets Digital Twins apart is the real-time automatic dataflow in both directions between the physical and digital objects.


Fig. 1. From Digital Model to Digital Twin (own representation, after Kritzinger et al., 2018)

Talkhestani et al., 2019 elaborates this further including four necessary features in their definition of a Digital Twin: (1) A Digital Twin has to be a digital representation of a physical asset, including as realistic as possible models and all available data on the physical asset. (2) The data has to contain all process data, acquired during operation as well as organizational and technical information created during the development of the asset. (3) A Digital Twin has to always be in sync with the physical asset. (4) It has to be possible to simulate the Digital Twin of the behavior of the physical asset.

Fig 2. The conceptualisation of Digital Twin.

Summarily, as seen in Figure 2, we conceptualize digital twins as possessing five constitutive features separating them from other virtual models: They need to have counterparts or equivalents in the physical world (be it a person, an organ, a product, a machine, a traffic system, or an organisational environment/infrastructure). They need to provide a fair (= as precise as possible) representation of its equivalent characteristics. They must be updated automatically and continuously (in real-time, or close-to-real-time). It must be possible to simulate the environment of the real-world counterpart on the digital twin (achieving what Qi et al. deem ‘integration between entity DT and scenario DT’). Finally, there must be synchronization directly from the digital twin to its counterpart, so that the physical asset can also mirror new directions or alterations happening virtually to the digital twin.

Digital twins in systems theory and modeling

Until now, digital twins can roughly be separated into two categories (Zhidchenko et al., 2018). Either, they assist with the analysis of very complex systems (like transportation systems), or they provide real-time analysis of relatively small systems (like a vehicle). For complex systems, digital twins are means of providing a safe space for simulation of various potential developments and impacts. The idea of digital twins is thus born out of being a (much cheaper) virtual replacement of the identical twin spacecraft NASA always produced to have suitable test spaces. By using digital twins, it becomes possible to perform simulations using the real-time characteristics of their physical counterparts, even while these are in operation. This has enormous potential to limit operational risks, as well as for optimization issues.

However, the distinction between the two categories of digital twins is increasingly blurred. Digital twins for real-time analysis is being applied to more and more complex systems. If future digital twins, as seems likely, acquire functionalities – enabled by artificial intelligence and machine learning – which allow them to interact with other digital twins in a ubiquitous environment, even digital twins of simple systems will themselves be entities forming complex systems.

Personal Digital Twins

Digital twins are also moving out of the manufacturing halls and on its way into, well, you. Signals regarding digital twins for health are already appearing manifold. Last month, The Economist reported on ambitious cardiac-research plans to create digital twins of human patients’ hearts. Digital twins are also potentially important enablers for personalised medicine through “high-resolution models of individual patients that are computationally treated with thousands of drugs to find the drug that is optimal for the patient (Björnsson et al., 2020).

In Finland, novel ideas of personal digital twins also appear in the context of the national AuroraAI-programme, which aims for Finland to ‘enter the AI age in a human-centric and ethically sustainable way’. A YouTube-video from the projects illustrates how you can ‘Let your digital twin empower you’. Futurist Osmo Kuusi has been a key contributor to development (cf. Kaivo-oja et al., 2019). Various technologies in the EU Foresight report “100 Radical Innovation Breakthroughs for the Future – The Radical Innovation Breakthrough Inquirer” indicate the high technical feasibility of digital twins.

Finding Finland’s niches

Manufacturing 4.0 believes Finland has the potential to be a leader in the Digital Twin-revolution, e.g. by developing and applying Digital Twins in strong niche markets. Department of Futures Technologies at the University of Turku has developed world-class digital models utilizing virtual reality/augmented reality, now commercialised through the spin-off company CTRL Reality. Researchers demonstrated their model of a virtual forest at the Finland Futures Research Centre’s Futures Fair in December 2017; this model was recently highlighted in the journal Nature calling for the world to Make more digital twins.

Other projects in Finland related to national strengths involve the environmental impacts of mining and mobile cranes. Usage of Digital Twins is also high on the agenda for the development and modernizations of ports in Pori and Rauma and as an element of the further take-off of the Robocoast-cluster. In Turku, digital twins are integral to the vision of creating a Smart and Wise Turku. Smart City Digital Twins is a major global research and investment area, and Finnish pioneer cities like Turku lead the way. Relying on a massive amount of data collected at high-speed from millions of sensors, there are finally also clear links between the rollout of digital twins and new demands for 5G and 6G networks.

What Digital Twins mean for futures studies?

The rapid trajectory of Digital Twins links with the disciplines of foresight and futures studies in several ways. First, it is in itself a trend to follow, analyse and speculate about the consequences of. It is also an embodiment of megatrends such as digitalisation, personalisation, and altered human-machine interactions.

At the same time, the very idea and definition of a digital twin as a vehicle of simulating the future makes digital twins an inherently futures-related technology. Futures studies-researchers and foresight practitioners must learn to utilize this as an important new tool in their toolbox. As one of its founding ideas, digital twins can provide a “safe simulation environment” to test future novelties, new products, new services, new organizational structures, new medicines, and smart infrastructures. This safety-oriented futures approach may be the most desirable way to use and apply digital twins systems thinking, and it could develop into a great futurist tool. How digital twins can supplement the identification of weak signals would seem like another fruitful avenue of investigation for future futures research.

Simultaneously, the theoretical baggage of futurists and system thinkers may be useful in shaping the field of digital twins. At present, the field seems primarily occupied by engineers and technology optimists, who may not always be aware of potential blind spots in their simulation models. A push might be needed to functionally integrate weak signals and wild cards into the simulations of digital twins. This will be another great topic for futures researchers in the years to come.

Mikkel Stein Knudsen
Project Researcher (M.Sc., Pol. Science), Finland Futures Research Centre, Turku School of Economics, University of Turku    

Jari Kaivo-oja
Research Director, Finland Futures Research Centre, Turku School of Economics, University of Turku.

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The project ‘Manufacturing 4.0’ has received funding from the Finnish Strategic Research Council [grant number 313395]. The project “Platforms of Big Data Foresight (PLATBIDAFO)” has received funding from the European Regional Development Fund (project No 01.2.2-LMT-K-718-02-0019) under a grant agreement with the Research Council of Lithuania (LMTLT).

 

References and additional information:

Cimino, Chiara et al. (2019). “Review of digital twin applications in manufacturing”. Computers in Industry, 113. DOI.

Grieves, Michael & Vickers, John (2017). “Digital Twin: Mitigating Unpredictable, Undesirable Emergent Behavior in Complex Systems”. In Kahlen, FJ. – Flumerfelt, S. & Alves, A. (eds.) Transdisciplinary Perspectives on Complex Systems. Springer, Cham. DOI.

Kaivo-oja, Jari et al. (2019). ”Digital Twins Approach and Future Knowledge Management Challenges: Where We Shall Need System Integration, Synergy Analyses and Synergy Measurements?”. In Uden, L. – Tinh, IH. & Corchado, J. (eds.) Knowledge Management in Organizations. KMO 2019. Communications in Computer and Information Science, 1027. Springer, Cham. DOI.

Kritzinger, W. et al. (2018). ”Digital Twin in manufacturing: A categorical literature review and classification.”. IFAC-PapersOnLine, 51(11), 1016–1022. DOI.

Lu, Y. et al. (2020). “Digital Twin-driven smart manufacturing: Connotation, reference model, applications and research issues.” Robotics and Computer-Integrated Manufacturing, 61. DOI.

Qi, Q. et al. (2019). “Enabling technologies and tools for digital twin”. Journal of Manufacturing Systems, in press. DOI.

Saracco, Roberto (2019). “Digital Twins: Bridging Physical Space and Cyberspace”. Computer, 52(12), 58–64. DOI.

Talkhestani, B.A. et al. (2019). ”An architecture of an Intelligent Digital Twin in a Cyber-Physical Production System.” at – Automatisierungstechnik, 67(9), 762-782. DOI.

Tao, Fei & Qi, Qinglin (2019). ”Make more digital twins”. Nature. DOI.

Zhidchenko, V. et al. (2018). ”Faster than real-time simulation of mobile crane dynamics using digital twin concept”. Journal of Physics: Conference Series, 1096.

Warnke, Philine – Cuhls, Kerstin – Schmoch, Ultich – Daniel, Lea – Andreescu, Liviu – Dragomir, Bianca – Gheorghiu, Radu – Baboschi, Catalina – Curaj, Adrian – Parkkinen, Marjukka & Kuusi, Osmo (2019). 100 Radical Innovation Breakthroughs for the Future – The Radical Innovation Breakthrough Inquirer. Foresight-report. European Commission. Brussels. DOI.

Cover picture: Pixabay.com

CELEBRATING FUTURES MEANS CELEBRATING LIFE

Sirkka Heinonen:

Futures thinking has finally become an academic discipline (in a few universities) while its pragmatic and light version – called foresight – has emerged as a critical strategic field for governments, cities, organisations and companies. Futures education is entering schools at all levels, even if only with the first baby steps. Futures communication could be described as an area and empowering approach through which you can highlight the essence and need for futures thinking and creation i.e. futures literacy. The awareness and visibility of futures literacy can be strengthened through various campaigns and celebrations.

World Future Day

For several consecutive years now, the Millennium Project has organized the World Future Day on March 1st, now hosted by The Millennium Project in collaboration with:

Again this year anyone can celebrate futures and attend the World Future Day via the Zoom. This celebratory event consists of volunteers, mostly from the Millennium Project network, facilitating futures discussions at 12 noon in their own time zone. You can come join the conversation whenever you want. Updates will be available online. This is a very globally inclusive, participatory, discussant, inter-cultural and inter-generational celebration of futures which can engage new actors in the field of futures studies, foresight and anticipation.

world-future-day

Finnish Futures Day Extended to Futures Week

Since the International Futures Day falls on a Sunday this year, celebrations are moved to the 6th of March in several locations, such as here in Finland. The goal of Futures Day is to alert the large masses of Finns for one day to discuss what kind of futures we want to create. The Futures Day concept works like the originally Finnish grassroot innovation Restaurant Day i.e. anyone in their community can organise their own Futures Day with the materials provided on the website  (the Finnish site). You can even post your own event on the Future Day website.

The Finnish Futures Day is actually extended for the whole Futures Week through events that inspire people to conversations about dreams and fears of the future they face. This is in order to strengthen futures awareness and make futures thinking visible. The Finnish National Foresight network also organises a Foresight Friday event on “Shaping the Future: Between Continuities and Disruptions”.

tulevaisuuspaiva2020-small

40 years of Finnish Society for Futures Studies – celebrating futures the whole year of 2020

The Finnish Society of Futures Studies (FSFS) is actively involved in organising and attending Futures Day events, extending futures celebrations for the whole year. This is because the Society, established in 1980 with Professor Pentti Malaska as its first President, is now celebrating its 40 years anniversary. These events will make futures thinking, its forms, means and goals, visible to the public, not only to the society’s 700 members.

Examples of futures events in 2020 – besides regular annual seminars, are TOP TEN seminar on Future and Power, seminar on theoretical and philosophical foundations of futures studies, summer seminar on our joint futures and actors making them, as well as a special issue of FUTURA journal (4/2019) on the past 40 years with interviews of 25 acknowledged futures researchers active within the FSFS.

Celebrating the history of futures activities and communicating it to younger generations is quintessential – both in learning about the very diverse paths that can lead to systematic futures work and in encouraging younger actors to enrichen the field and boldly open up new avenues and angles. A call for videos of visualising futures, especially scenarios, will also be opened soon.

tutu-seura-40

100 years of University of Turku

Futures celebrations are intensified with the celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the University of Turku. With the Finland Futures Research Centre (FFRC) as its department and with the new futures basics course TULEVA that is obligatory for all master’s programme students at its School of Economics the University of Turku can be metaphorically called “Futures University”.

uniturku100

In June the 21st international FFRC conference will be organised on ‘Learning Futures – Futures of Learning’ in Helsinki in co-operation with the Finnish National Agency for Education (EDUFI). The conference includes a special session “Millennium Forum”, organised by FEN (Foresight European Network) and the Helsinki Node of the Millennium Project, the latter one celebrating its twenty years of activity. There you can simultaneously celebrate learning and learn to celebrate – both are equally educational.

Futures Studies as Life Supporting System

The above mentioned examples of campaigns and celebrations aim at enhancing the awareness and visibility of futures thinking and futures studies. Such futures communication is needed not only for making wider circles in society conscious of the potential and benefits of futures work, but also for nudging more stakeholders to concretely use futures and foresight material and results in their strategic processes.

Serious futures work becomes a synonym for survival strategies. My claim is that every organisation, government, company, NGO etc needs a futures strategy to cope and succeed. In a nutshell, futures strategy means traditional strategy enhanced by longer time-frame, systemic view, holistic approach, out-of-the-box thinking, aided with peripheral vision (Day & Shoemaker 2006) and other futures methodology (Glenn & Gordon 2009; Heinonen, Kuusi & Salminen eds 2017). Accordingly, futures literacy and foresight skills become a necessary prerequisite for survival – they embody a life-supporting system if their results are harnessed to tackle the mega-challenges hovering above humankind’s head like Damocles’ sword. This allegory highlights that with great fortune and power comes also great danger. Humankind thinks of itself sitting in the king’s throne, in power over nature, in control of technology. This no longer applies – there are existential risks looming above us by a hair’s strength such as climate change, cyberterrorism, pandemics, artificial super intelligence.

In the Millennium project Future of Work/Technology 2050 scenarios (Glenn 2019), a key distinguishing feature of different assumptions about how artificial intelligence evolves from the current specific or niche applications-competent artificial intelligence (Artificial Narrow Intelligence ANI) towards that of capable of solving a wide range of tasks similar to humans competence (Artificial General Intelligence AGI) and still further towards artificial intelligence that becomes superior to humans’ performance in most tasks (Artificial Super Intelligence ASI). What if ASI then realises and decides that humans are detrimental to life on earth and draws certain conclusions?

From the point of view of biology, the purpose of life is to produce as many offspring as possible i.e. to reproduce and maintain the population. From the point of view of many religions, the purpose of life is to live in contact with Higher Being and to use his or her own special skills for the benefit of others. The purpose of Futures Studies has already been crystallised by Ossip K. Flechtheim (1966) to combat great global problems such as poverty, war, inequality. Wendel Bell (1997, 111) saw as the overriding purpose of futures studies “to maintain or improve human well-being and the life-sustaining capacities of the Earth” with nine sub-purposes all tightly bundled together under this umbrella.

Therefore, a relevant question for all participants of the Futures Day, Week or Year is to also address such mega-questions as purpose of life and how futures studies could concentrate on them more efficiently – how to use the special foresight skills to benefit fellow humans, other species, and the planet? The mega-challenge of climate change is deeply intertwined with this endeavour. Electricity production based on even 100% renewable energy is already technically possible (Breyer et al. 2016). However, because of institutional obstacles, fossil industry lobbying, and political indecision, the transition is slow. However, when there’s a will, there’s a way. The Club of Rome published its Climate Emergency Plan (2019), there are scenarios for pathways to emission-free futures (e.g. Heinonen & Karjalainen 2019), and there are pioneers such as Greta Thunberg.

Both the speed and scale for action in face of global challenges matter. In futures field, we can adopt 100% futures consciousness, if we only choose so. Every step, event, campaign and working/learning process celebrating futures thinking and futures literacy is noteworthy. In memory of Bell’s line of integrative prospective thinking: we have to reason, choose and act, correspondingly. Everybody is invited to these empowering futures celebrations.

Sirkka Heinonen
Ph.D., Professor Emerita
Finland Futures Research Centre
University of Turku

– –

References

Bell, Wendell (1997). Foundations of Futures Studies. Human Science for a New Era. Volume I: History, Purposes and Knowledge. Transaction Publishers, New Jersey.

Breyer, Christian; Heinonen, Sirkka & Ruotsalainen, Juho (2016). New consciousness: A societal and energetic vision for rebalancing humankind within the limits of planet Earth. Technological Forecasting and Social Change.

Club of Rome Climate Emergency Plan. A Collaborative Call for Action. By members of the Club of Rome: Sandrine Dickson-Déclève, Ian Dunlop, Andres Wijkman with support from Martin Hedberk & Till Kellerhof, 16 p.

Day, George & Schoemaker, Paul (2006). Peripheral Vision: Detecting the Weak Signals That Will Make or Break Your Company. Harvard Business School Press.

Flechtheim, Ossip K.  (1996). History and Futurology. Meisenheim-am-Glan, Germany. Verlag Anton Hain.

Glenn, Jerome (2019) Work/Technology 2050 – scenarios and actions. Orders.

Glenn, Jerome & Gordon, Theodore (eds) (2009). Millennium Project Futures Research Methodology Version 3.0. 

Heinonen, Sirkka & Karjalainen, Joni (2019). Electrification in Peer-to-Peer Society – New Narrative for Sustainable Futures. FFRC eBook 1/2019.  Order print copies.

Heinonen, Sirkka & Karjalainen, Joni (2019b) Pioneer Analysis as a Futures Research Method for Analysing Transformations. In: Poli R., Valerio M. (eds) Anticipation, Agency and Complexity. Anticipation Science, vol 4. Springer, Cham.

Heinonen, Sirkka, Kuusi, Osmo & Salminen, Hazel (eds) (2017).  How Do We Explore Our Futures? Methods of Futures Research. Acta Futura Fennica 10, Finnish Society for Futures Studies. Helsinki.

Nurmela, Juha & Viherä, Marja-Liisa (2019). Miten minusta tuli tulevaisuudentutkija? – 25 aktiivia tutkijaa kertoo (How I became a futures researcher – stories by 25 active futures researchers). FUTURA 4/2019, 5-34.

 

Article photo by Sirkka Heinonen.

Towards Data Smart Foresight – Exciting pivotal moments expected

Jari Kaivo-oja & Mikkel Stein Knudsen:

We have been told many news about data science. Some experts say that data science can call presidential races, reveal more about your buying habits than you would dare to tell your mother or wife, and predict just how many years those combined mega kebab hamburger pizzas have been shaving your life, and of trendsetting lifestyles – globally. Data scientists, the elite “python” men and women are today labelled “sexy” in various Harvard Review and MIT reviews articles. The famous slogan of W. Edwards Deming and Peter Drucker, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure”, is seen more and more relevant foundation for decision-makers (see e.g.  McAfee & Brynjolfsson 2012). However, it is not easy to verify “sex issues and sexuality” claims and that is why we should avoid overstatements of “sexy” Big Data.

We do not have to be “sexy” in all occupations of work, but we in the futures research community can develop foresight tools with Small or Big Data. We can develop new exciting ideas of foresight with data science and data analytics tools. The next level of your business and specialization in foresight analyses will probably happen with exciting data science tools that were not available only a few years ago.

The DPP paradigm and data smartness development

We all know that data is only “raw material” of information and knowledge. From data we can create information and knowledge – and finally even wisdom. Three key functions of foresight are Diagnosis, Prognosis and Prescriptions. The DPP paradigm is found for example in the For Learn -manual and in various discussions of European foresight programs. Of course, the analogy with medical sciences is obvious. Foresight specialist diagnose, prognose and deliver prescriptions like doctors do in the field of health and social care services. There is nothing mysterious in this professional practice. Also doctors and medical professionals apply Big Data tools and methods. Doctoral practice with diagnosis and prognosis is (also) based on Big Data-analytics. Such will also be the case for foresight specialists in the field of futures studies and applied foresight projects. Probably better foresight analyses can be provided to customers with Big Data than with Small Data.

Key deliverables of foresight are:

  • Desirability analytics
  • Probability analytics
  • Feasibility and impact analytics
  • Risk analytics
  • Strategic importance analytics
  • Network and stakeholder analytics
  • Spatial and global network analytics and
  • Decision model analytics (scenario multicriteria data for decision-making).

All key foresight deliverables can be based on Big Data analytics both in Numbers and Narratives data fields. Volume of big data from heterogeneous sources has considerably grown. Identification of the relevant data from the huge quantity of available Big Data lakes is still very challenging though, because Big Data can be very messy and cleaning it may take time and financial resources. It is obvious that more effort is needed in monitoring thematic data fields and deliver Big Data lakes to data scientists and foresight specialists.

Foresight synergy challenges with data analytics

Typically, foresight specialists and professionals deliver these kinds of knowledge intensive “goods” for organizations and decision-makers. They provide both soft and hard business and policy services. In many cases they also provide Knowledge Intensive Business Services (KIBS), which are tailored for private purposes. Data analytics can be applied both with qualitative and quantitative data. Current “science arena” of data analytics can be figured out in Fig. 1 (Kaivo-oja 2019). There are many challenges to use data science to transform information into insight and foresight. We can just mention well-known Narratives and Numbers approach in foresight research. Data analytics can enrich foresight with Numbers and Narratives analyses to the next level.

Figure 1. Data analytics field in the data science operations (Kaivo-oja 2019).

When we look at Fig. 1, it is important to underline potential synergies (1) between small data analytics and big data analytics and (2) between quantitative and qualitative research. These two synergy challenges are also huge challenge for futures of foresight research. We believe that the future true state-of-the-art foresight comes from the proper understanding and application of all four quadrants.

Towards Data Smart Foresight with Big Data ethics

As always, there are huge possibilities and treats in the field of big data analytics (Reinsel et al. 2017). Big Data flow increases volume, value, velocity, variety and veracity of data for organizations (Fig 2.) These 5 Vs are more and more relevant for decision-makers. Based on an IDC report prediction, the global data volume was predicted to grow exponentially from 4.4 zettabytes to 44 zettabytes between 2013 and 2020 (Hajirahimova & Aliyeva 2017).

Figure 2. Five Vs and Big Data.

Nowadays, people are more and more aware of privacy and social media risks. Even corporations are trying to be proactive in this field, like with the recent news of Google setting up an external advisory board for the responsible development of AI (Google, 2019b) or the publication of the Google AI Principles (Google, 2019a). Big Data-ethics will be critical topic of public and corporate ethics discussions. The following six principles are currently attributed to Big Data Ethics: (1) Ownership of small or big data – Individuals own their own data or sell their data with a contract. (2) Data Transaction Transparency – If individuals´ personal data is used, they should have transparent access to the algorithm design used to generate aggregate data sets, (3) Consent of data – If an individual or legal entity would like to use their personal data, one needs to be informed and explicitly expressed consent of what personal data moves to whom, when, how and for what purpose from the owner of the data, (4) Privacy of citizens – If data transactions occur all reasonable effort needs to be made to preserve privacy, (5) Currency – All individuals should be aware of financial transactions resulting from the use of their personal data and the scale of these transactions and (6) Openness – Aggregate data sets and data lakes should be freely available (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_data_ethics).

We can add other related ‘Big Issues for Big Data’ which needs to be added to the Big Data-ethics discussion (Raleigh, 2019): (7) Avoiding algorithm bias – Algorithm often unintendedly exacerbates underlying biases of real-world data and thereby harms specific populations (Dickson, 2018 provides numerous examples of this), (8) Data longetivity – As data gains value through use, its reliability over the long-term becomes more important; this creates emerging issues in cases of e.g. bankruptcy or decisions to discontinue management of data or data APIs.

On the other hand, data analytics can help us to manage some big risks like pandemic and climate change risks. Also, SMEs can have smarter business models and platforms with Big Data analytics. We are therefore also faced with dilemmas in which ethical boundaries might prevent us from achieving something we can intersubjectively agree as valuable (Wiren, 2019). Value search, value configuration and value delivery can be improved by the five Vs of Big Data. Also, governments and academia and civil society organizations can improve their services and value delivery to citizens by the services and good based on Big Data analytics. McKinsey (2018) argues that ‘Smart city applications can improve some key quality-of-life indicators by 10 to 30 percent’. In the case of Turku, using big data and ‘world class data science resources’ is now developed as a local strategic flagship project (Piippo, 2019).

Trend change from Business intelligence to Big Data analytics

The applications of Big Data foresight can be sometimes fascinating and sometimes alarming. We should be aware about possibilities and threats of Big Data analytics. In Fig 3, we can see that trends in the field of data analytics are changing, and we are moving from business intelligence to Big Data analytics, if we assess development with Google Trends database index numbers. Big Data analytics has been dominating people´s interest since 2014. Average Index number is 84 in years 2014–2019, while interest in business intelligence is decreasing near to 50 index levels (Average Index number 49,3 in years 2014–2019). Big Data started to gain more interest than business intelligence in 2013.

Figure 3. Business Intelligence Index and Big Data Index Trends in 2004-2019 with Linear Trend Lines (Index 0-100). Source: Monthly Global Data from Google Trends 24.3.2019. https://trends.google.fi/trends/?geo=FI).  

The importance of Big Data does not revolve around how much data an organization finally has in its files, but how an organization utilises the collected Big Data lakes. Every company and organization uses data in its own organizational way. Organization culture is have impacts on the use of Big Data in many ways. Leaders, management teams and workers have their own habits and beliefs of Big Data work like they have their habits in relation to business intelligence activities.

It is good to understand that there is an analogy between market square and the concept of platform. As we know, the market square enables producers and consumers to interact without external intermediaries. For producers, it would be time- and resource-consuming to find all customers and present offerings for everybody separately. Also for consumers, it would be similarly very inefficient to find various producers one by one. This situation is relevant for foresight and anticipation markets, where consumers and producers want to share knowledge intensive services and products in markets, business and networks. Big Data extends foresight market square in global settings.

The more efficiently a company uses its data lakes and adopts Big Data foresight, the more potential it has to grow, because of platform synergies and market square logic. The company and organizations can take data from various sources, but they have to think many issues before they can use data and information in in decision-making. Ethical codes of Big Data are highly relevant topics to discuss before making use of Big Data. Ethical thinking before serious action is always necessary in foresight and futures business.

Jari Kaivo-oja
Research Director, Finland Futures Research Centre, Turku School of Economics, University of Turku.
Research Professor (Kazimiero Simonavičiaus University, Platforms of Big Data Foresight, Foresight program)
Adjunct Professor (Planning and management sciences, University of Helsinki, Faculty of Science, Geosciences)
Adjunct Professor (Foresight and innovation research, University of Lapland, Department of Social Sciences)

Mikkel Stein Knudsen
Project Researcher (M.Sc., Pol. Science), Finland Futures Research Centre, Turku School of Economics, University of Turku                

References

Balcom Raleigh, Nicolas (2019). Current project insights: Potentials of big data for integrated territorial policy development in the European growth corridors. Dos and Don’ts of Big Data for Foresight, Turku Science Park, Turku, Thursday 28.2.2019.

Dickson, Ben (2018). What is algorithmic bias? TechTalks. Web: https://bdtechtalks.com/2018/03/26/racist-sexist-ai-deep-learning-algorithms/

FOR LEARN (2019). Support to mutual learning between Foresight managers, practitioners, users and stakeholders of policy-making organisations in Europe. Institute for Prospective Technological Studies. Joint Research Centre. Web: http://forlearn.jrc.ec.europa.eu/index.htm

Google (2019a). Looking Back at Google’s Research Efforts in 2018. 15.1.2019. Web: https://ai.googleblog.com/2019/01/looking-back-at-googles-research.html

Google (2019b). An external advisory council to help the responsible development of AI. 26.3.2019. Web: https://www.blog.google/technology/ai/external-advisory-council-help-advance-responsible-development-ai/

Hajirahimova, Makrufa, Sh. and Aliyeva, Aybeniz S. (2017). About Big Data Measurement Methodologies and Indicators. International Journal of Modern Education and Computer Science. 9 (10), 1–9. Web: http://www.mecs-press.org/ijmecs/ijmecs-v9-n10/IJMECS-V9-N10-1.pdf

Kaivo-oja, Jari (2019). Introduction:  The Challenges of Big Data Foresight. Lecture in Turku Science Park. Dos and Don’ts of Big Data for Foresight, Turku Science Park, Turku, Thursday 28.2.2019.

McAfee, Andrew and Brynjolfsson, Erik (2012) Big Data: The Management Revolution. Harvard Business Review, October 2012, Web: http://tarjomefa.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/6539-English-TarjomeFa-1.pdf

McKinsey Global Institute (2018). Smart Cities: Digital Solutions for a More Livable Future. Executive Summary, June 2018. Web: https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/McKinsey/Industries/Capital%20Projects%20and%20Infrastructure/Our%20Insights/Smart%20cities%20Digital%20solutions%20for%20a%20more%20livable%20future/MGI-Smart-Cities-Executive-summary.ashx

Piippo, Tuomas (2019). Using world-class data science resources to create a smart and wise Turku. Dos and Don’ts of Big Data for Foresight, Turku Science Park, Turku, Thursday 28.2.2019.

Reinsel, David; Gantz, John and Rydning, John (2017). Data Age 2025: The Evolution of Data to Life-Critical (PDF). Framingham, MA, US: International Data Corporation. Web: https://www.seagate.com/files/www-content/our-story/trends/files/idc-seagate-dataage-whitepaper.pdf

Wikipedia (2019). Big Data Ethics https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_data_ethics.

Wiren, Milla (2019). Strategic Positioning in Big Data Utilization. Dos and Don’ts of Big Data for Foresight, Turku Science Park, Turku, Thursday 28.2.2019.

 

Photo: pixabay.com 

Energy, Sustainability and Foresight talk in Lima, Peru

Marianna Birmoser Ferreira-Aulu

On Monday 19 November, Project Researcher Marianna Birmoser Ferreira-Aulu gave a lecture on Futures Studies, Energy and Sustainability in UTEC (Universidad de Ingeniería y Tecnología) in Lima, Peru.

The event was organized by the prospectiva start-up consultancy company Project A+. It started with an introduction on Futures Studies and Foresight, by their Prospective and Strategic Management Chief Omar Del Carpio. Del Carpio is also the CEO of the Peruvian Foresight and Innovation Biofuture Lab. After his introduction, Mrs. Ferreira-Aulu gave her talk using her Master’s Thesis as an example of how Futures Studies can be an empowering field of work.

The lecture ended with a panel of discussion together with Ricardo Rodríguez -Director of the International Federation of Systems Research (IFSR), Julien Noel -Director of the faculty of engineering, and Omar del Carpio.

IMG_0573

Is there a Future after the Belo Monte Dam?

Ferreira-Aulu’s work is entitled ”Is There A Future After The Belo Monte Dam? Building Futures Scenarios For The Volta Grande Do Xingu In Amazonia, Brazil.” (full PDF here)

In her thesis, published in 2017, she produced four scenarios of alternative futures for the Volta Grande do Xingu region, taking into account the socio-environmental impacts already caused by the Belo Monte Dam, currently being built in the Brazilian Amazonia, as well as future impacts, which can be different, depending how different actors behave on the days to come.

Despite Ferreira-Aulu’s rusty Spanish (or very fluent portuñol) the audience was attentive and interested. In addition to the students and teachers from UTEC university, the audience also counted with fellow futurists, consultancy companies, producers of EIAs in Peru, as well as representatives from the Peruvian Ministry of Energy and Mines.

The Q&A in the end was a lively and rich discussion between panellists and the audience. A video of the full lecture in available in the Facebook, and the language of the lecture was Spanish (or Portuñol).

Marianna Birmoser Ferreira-Aulu
MA Futures Studies, Project Researcher
Finland Futures Research Centre

Photos: Foresight and Innovation Biofuture Lab

Co-creating Futures in New Value-driven Economy: Foresight, Co-creation and New Value Creation Thinking

Jari Kaivo-oja, Mikkel Stein Knudsen & Theresa Lauraéus

Co-creation is nowadays a key concept of participatory foresight. The definition of co-creation is not easy or and the issue not self-evident, at least not in scientific discussions. Typically, co-creation is associated with service design and development of new services and goods. Co-creation methods and tools can also be used in organizational strategy and vision processes. Nowadays innovation management includes proactive use of co-creation methods and tools, especially when end-users, lead-users and consumers are taken into innovation processes.

Co-creation is everywhere

The approaches of open business models, collaboration with users, customization of products, consumption, co-production, service exchange, retailing, business solutions with knowledge sharing, and participatory roles of consumers, communities and crowds are linked to co-creating processes. All these approaches are based on the fact that human beings are social creatures. We can also link these diverse approaches to emerging trend of the sharing economy.

We can claim that co-creation is not something new and fresh in the field of innovation management. Co-creation has always been a part of idea creation and innovations. The history of innovation cannot be understood without understanding co-creation as a part of innovation processes. Co-creation is also an elementary part of value creation in business life.

For example, David Teece´s classical Sensing-Seizing-Transformation -business model does not work without some forms of co-creation and foresight. Dynamic capabilities are fully utilised only with co-creation tools and methods. As we know dynamic capability is “the firm’s ability to integrate, build, and reconfigure internal and external competences to address rapidly changing environments”.  David Teece’s mentor was Nobel laureate Oliver Williamson. David Teece’s work, in turn, influenced management strategy theorist Gary Pisano and business innovation expert Henry Chesbrough,  who were his students and collaborators. In a way, we can claim that Open Innovation paradigm was a result of co-creation by these grand economists and business modelling thinkers, even if Henry Chesbrough is sometimes credited alone as ‘the father of Open Innovation’. Co-creation of various experts and scientists is often in the background of scientific and business breakthroughs.

From creation to co-creation

Orchestration of excellency in business life requires nowadays novel tools of co-creation. Value creational systems do not work without interactive co-creation processes, especially when we talk about more and more digitalized world. In analogical reality creation was more simple and less complex issue. Today the trend is: We are moving from creation to co-creation and driver is digitalization. There are many reasons for the big change from creation to co-creation.

Today technology and digitalization had changed how hyper-individualized persons and things affect each other. Things are today connected and smarter than before. Globally, Nokia´s “Connecting People” slogan is now more real than before. Also discovery processes are today more complex than before. Process of justification in innovation process is in many ways more complex than before. For example, nowadays, Service Dominant Logic (SDL) is more demanding principle than old Service Logic (SL). This means that process of justification in innovation process is more demanding and complex. This means also that foresight activities should take SDL more seriously in the business world. Interactional creation, co-creation has become to be practiced with dynamic interactions of artefacts, persons, processes. and interfaces. Dynamics of co-creation is a different and more complex challenge than just dynamics of individual creation.

Interactional creation and APPI drivers

Today interaction is not “one-way street”. Progress in innovation processes is based on “two-way” or “multiple highways”. Arrangements are “put into motion” through interactions, which include elements of “upward causality” and “downward causality”.  Interactive platforms of digital economy have changed the nature of interactions. Typical platform includes the components of Artefacts, Persons, Processes and Interfaces (APPI).

All the elements are drivers of change in the digitalized network economy. For example, Industry 4.0 challenge includes dynamic development of APPI drivers. Corporations, which can develop dynamic APPI systems and platforms are the winners in the global economy. Everybody knows who are these global growth giants, who master the most successful APPIs.

From Collaboration to New Value Creation Thinking

Manufacturing 4.0: Navigation journey in the conditions of disruption and co-creation

The MFG4.0 project´s main goal is to produce academic publications and elaborate new innovative products and services, business models and entrepreneurship ideas for Finnish society, researchers and enterprises. Finland has invested a lot in developing new technologies, but what the most important innovations, intelligent products and services for citizens are, is an issue not too much discussed. The adaptive and renewal capacity of Finnish innovation ecosystem management will be tested during coming years of global disruptive technological transformation. The list of ”the next big things” has gradually grown longer and longer during last years. Various technology foresight studies indicate that disruptive technological changes will be a key element on changing global economic and social environment. Final outcomes of disruption are not self-evident.

Between now and 2025 disruptive technological transformation will be considerable. The so-called GRIN-waves (Gene technology, Robotics, Informatics and Nanotechnology) contain some key technologies that have great disruptive impacts on economies, business models, and everyday life of people. From this disruptive and risky technology perspective it is important, and we aim to develop new approaches to these disruptive technologies and innovations. We can claim that co-creation is key element of disruption management in business. Already very influential McKinsey study (2013) identified 12 potentially disruptive technology waves, but in reality disruption will be realized in different markets and global value chains and networks. Technologies do not alone co-create anything. There are broad ways of co-creations like submitting, co-designing, tinkering, collaborating etc. Humans do this part of development, not AI, robots or other digital solutions alone.

In Figure 1 relevant scientific framework of ongoing research is figured out. There are thematic elements in the project: Academic basic research, applied research and collaboration. The academic research provides the backbone and analysis framework for the project. The special added value of the framework will include following issues: (1) New research findings relevant for joint public-private partnerships, (2) effective knowledge sharing of research outputs with private and public sector organizations, (3) co-creation of an interactive and digitalized innovations.

Figure 1. Scientific framework of the research project. The logic of creating special added value with the partners (Saarinen 2006)

It is important to integrate theoretical knowledge and practical communication with collaborators to better understanding of socio-technical transition (see e.g. Saarinen 2006). The research project will collaborate and disseminate the results widely through large collaborator and institution networks. We do collaboration with 40 institutional and company co-partners. Co-partners take part in surveys, collaboration, dissemination and utilization of research results and reports.

Also, adaptive mechanisms of socio-technical regimes and niche micro management of SMEs and corporations will be developed towards more agile and flexible practices. The MFG 4.0 research project includes various interactive and participative foresight processes for Finnish industries and business communities. The on-going research is tailored for improving competitiveness and smartness of Finnish economy in the long-run. Some of the new innovations may offer solutions to today´s social problems, ageing, health care, usage of renewable energy, traffic problems in the future. As a recent Open Innovation case study on how an online voluntary community contributes to medical record-keeping in developing countries succinctly puts it, “Write code, save lives” (Sims et al., 2018). The starting point for Finnish business may be very different, but the example shows the valuable co-creative potential of involving consumers, end-users and outsiders in innovation processes.

 Co-creation – So what?

Today innovation management includes many co-creation processes of new ideas. Co-creation is a management initiative, or form of economic strategy, that brings different parties together (for instance, a company and a group of customers), in order to jointly produce a mutually valued outcome for all partners. In a recent article of Venkat Ramaswany and Kerimcan Ozcan (2018), co-creation was defined in a new way. Their fresh definition of co-creation is:

Co-creation is enactment of interactional creation across interactive system-environments (afforded by interactive platforms), entailing agencing engagements and structuring organizations.”

This definition of co-creation means that every co-creation framework (CCF) involves a particular combination of APPI components that are implicated through the respective environment of nodal entity in a network.  This definition can imply radical changes in business thinking. “Old fashioned thinking” of Business-to-Consumer (B2C) and Business-to-Business (B2B) are now changing to more complex direction, towards multiple linked I2S2I (system environments of platformed interactions) kind of business thinking.

So what? We can always claim that co-creation is nothing new under the sun, but it in current form of thinking can change thinking and action in the business world dramatically. If we think futures of business world from co-creation perspective, co-creation research requires much more attention also in Finland. In future industrial manufacturing systems with dynamic information exchange between the full value chain from suppliers to end-users, understanding how to best organise and optimise co-creation of value can be the determining factor for developing a business advantage or withering away.

Almost needless to say, co-creation can provide a lot of value-added for the public sector, too. Public organizations and agencies are not working in a vacuum of simple creation. Public agencies are also connected to global CCFs and APPI systems, where the perspective of individuals as experiencing actors with their co-creation experiences plays a central business role and has its own relevance. Already two co-creative thinkers can change the world. Futures business models are co-created with individualized immediate feedback loops, with new cooperating structures and platforms and with a new organizational logic.

Jari Kaivo-oja
Research Director, Adjunct Professor, PhD, Finland Futures Research Centre, Turku School of Economics, University of Turku

Mikkel Stein Knudsen
Project Researcher, Finland Futures Research Centre, Turku School of Economics, University of Turku

Theresa Lauraeus
Senior Researcher, PhD, Finland Futures Research Centre, Turku School of Economics, University of Turku

 

> Background literature

 

Picture: pixabay.com

Cobalt: What the price of a mineral can make us inquire about the future?

Mikkel Stein Knudsen & Jari Kaivo-oja:

How can strategic foresight help prepare Finland for a healthy economic future? One element is to detect market movements, which, now and down the line, might affect Finland’s economy and manufacturing. The cobalt market is one such market.

The price of cobalt is surging. The price of the mineral has more than quadrupled over the past 26 months from a historic low of 21,750 $/ton in February 2016 to an all time high of 95,250 $/ton in March 2018. On Friday April 13 2018, trading closed at 92,000 $/ton.

Fig. 1. Five years trading prices of Cobalt.  

This price development is remarkable for a number of reasons, and, as this blog post aims to show, it provides us with important questions and links to the global sustainable energy transition, to a healthy and competitive Finnish economy, and to possible geopolitical challenges of the future. We should pay more strategic attention to the monitoring of the global economy from the perspective of the Finnish manufacturing base. In the future we need strategic value mapping systems, of manufacturing, which include (1) independent models of value, (2) specific strategy and technology models and (3) growth models implicit in the life-cycle of the technology underlying the business model of the family of business models.

The blog post thus briefly covers five main questions:

  1. Why is the price of cobalt suddenly surging like it is?
  2. Why is the price development of cobalt important for Finland?
  3. Why might the cobalt market impose challenges for sustainable transition?
  4. Why does the cobalt market have geopolitical implications?
  5. How can we assess future implications of this issue?

The aim of the post here is not so much to provide answers, but rather to develop insights and key questions for additional research, which we believe would be of interest for the Government, Finnish policymakers, Finnish businesses, industrial stakeholders and academics across a range of fields. We should present a strategic important question: What is the role of Finnish manufacturing in global value creation and production networks?

The price of cobalt as a proxy for demand for electric vehicles?

The main driver of the dramatic price surge is linked by market participants to rising demand for electric vehicles (EVs) (Financial Times, 2018; The Economist, 2018). In the EV-sector lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries are the preferred battery technology due to it’s energy density (Zubi et al., 2018), with cobalt used for lithium metal oxides. 75% of the global cobalt consumption is going into the battery sector (Fröhlich et al, 2017). As demand for EV’s increase, so does the demand for batteries, and so does the demand for cobalt.

The price of cobalt might therefore be a telling proxy for the general optimism surrounding the business ecosystem of electric vehicles – and the surging price of cobalt can be seen as an indicator that the car and battery industries, at least, are now betting big on EV markets. Of course, this price analysis is not only price indicator trend analysis, we should perform in the context of global economy. However, this is an interesting strategic case example with broader importance. We need to pay more attention to the price monitoring system of strategic resources relevant for the Finnish manufacturing base and economy.

Possible research ideas: Market development and global uptake of electric vehicles; linkages between EV sales and global cobalt consumption, the price monitoring system of strategic resources relevant for the Finnish manufacturing base and economy. 

Finland and the cobalt industry

The largest cobalt refinery in the world is located in Kokkola, and Finland is the second largest producer of the refined cobalt in the world after China. Current (2017) Finnish production is at 12,200 tons of Cobalt per year (GTK, 2018). Finland is not a marginal player in this field of global manufacturing…

While a large majority of the cobalt used for refining is imported (thereby possibly limiting profits added by the price surge), the value of the refined cobalt outputs have increased remarkably. If each ton of refined cobalt is worth $70,000 more than two years ago, an annual production of 12,200 tonnes of refined cobalt is worth $850m more.

The surging price of cobalt alone therefore by itself lifts Finnish exports by as much as €0,5bn in 2018 compared to 2016.

There are current plans of mining for cobalt at Terraframe (formerly Talvivaara) and near Kuusamo, although the developments are not quite without issues (Terraframe, 2017; Yle, 2018; Lapin Kansa, 2018).

Through mining and refining of cobalt as well as through a number of other aspects, this growing battery manufacturing value chain might be a key value-producing network for the Finnish economy of the near future. We need proactive industrial and manufacturing policy platform based on private-public governance. One important idea behind this blog post is that we need a more proactive industrial policy in Finland.

It has indeed already been noted that Finland is well positioned for this growth market (Aamulehti, 2017; Business Finland, 2017), and this month  (April 2018), the Ministry of Economic Affairs launched a new program for Batteries for Finland 2018-2020 in order to strengthen this agenda further (Työ- ja elinkeinoministeriö, 2018). In addition to attracting new international mining investments, the plans aim at generating a higher value part of the battery manufacturing chain.

One important strategic aspect of economic trend research is that we can understand that relative advantages are variable dynamic factors. Therefore, they should be constantly monitored on the basis of global economic changes. Of course, prices changes are such factors.

Possible research ideas: Scenarios and a strategy architecture for Finnish cobalt mining and refining, Orchestration of the EV battery business ecosystem. 

Can lack of cobalt hinder a sustainable transition?

A sustainable global transition requires new technologies for energy production, transportation, etc. However, these new technologies are dependent on various metals, including cobalt. In 2016 Finnish researchers from VTT and the Geological Survey of Finland assessed this ‘Role of critical metals in the future markets of clean energy technologies’ in a peer-reviewed article (Grandell et al., 2016). Here availability of other metals (e.g. silver) is deemed even more critical, but for cobalt the researchers find that with assumptions of a global clean energy transformation, cumulative demand for cobalt for the period until 2050 can exceed known global resources by almost 200 pct.

In other words, positive scenarios for fast climate change action can be challenged by the lack of minerals. If the world transitions with the use of current technologies, there might simply not be enough cobalt available for the job.

It is not without reason that a recent published study concluded that “Cobalt, however, is a reason for major concerns in the Li-ion battery sector” (Zubi et al., 2018).

Possible research ideas: Critical metals as possible limiting factors for cleantech-technologies; Designing optimal policies for reducing dependence on critical metal; Substitutionality of critical metals in various technological fields.

Why does the cobalt market have geopolitical implications?

The main supplier of cobalt in the world is the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which supplies more than 50% of the current global production of cobalt (Fröhlich et al., 2017). Having one dominant global supplier entails supply risks, increased by political and economic instability. In 1978, civil unrest in the DRC quickly increased the price of cobalt by 6.5 times (Bailey et al., 2017), the so called “Cobalt Crisis” (Shedd et al., 2017). Depending on the stability and development of the DRC, there might be concerns regarding continuous supply.

The second supply-related concern relates to the dominant position of China. A 2015-paper in Energy Policy stated that “Whereas experts in the minerals industry are mostly aware of China’s strong position, many stakeholders in and advocates for renewable technologies are not” (Stegen, 2015). This strong position certainly holds true for cobalt, leading to concerns of what might happen if China corners the cobalt market (The Economist, 2018). The Chinese company China Moly  was also in talks to take over Freeport Cobalt’s refinery in Kokkola, but the deal fell through in the summer of 2017 (Reuters, 2018).

If there is a global scarcity of certain minerals, and if one nation holds the key to these minerals, it is easy to imagine the availability might have important geopolitical implications (cf. Øverland et al., 2017).

Possible research ideas: Security and geopolitical implications of mineral resources for clean energy technologies; black swans and resilience research.

What can we say about the future?

Like with any other raw material, the price and the criticality of cobalt hinges on supply and demand. In the terms of minerals these fundamental variables can meaningfully be subdivided into specific variables (adapted from Martin et al., 2017):

Fig. 2. Determinants of price and criticality of minerals (inspiration from Martin et al., 2017)

The supply of cobalt available for the market will be driven both by the amount of cobalt resources and reserves naturally available, by the amount of cobalt that is recycled, and by the amount of cobalt actually produced. The production supply will be a function of price and profitability, but other issues like social and environmental concerns might also affect production constraints, e.g. in Finnish mining projects.

Similarly, demand for cobalt will be a function of the demand for technologies using cobalt, but also shaped by the technical and economic feasibility of using alternative raw materials or using alternative technological solutions (ie. substitutionality).

A thorough foresight or technological forecast study should therefore consider each of these variables individually, in the case of Finland or even globally. Given the potentially major role of cobalt for sustainable transition, for global geopolitical concerns or ‘just’ for the economy of Finland, this would however be a very interesting endeavour to pursue.

Possible research ideas: Scenarios for global cobalt demand; Scenarios for Finland’s mining industry.

References and additional information


Mikkel Stein Knudsen
Project Researcher, Finland Futures Research Centre, Turku School of Economics, University of Turku

Jari Kaivo-oja
Research Director, Adjunct Professor, Dr, Finland Futures Research Centre, Turku School of Economics, University of Turku

This research work has been supported by the Finnish Strategic Research Council [grant number 313395]. The blog text refers to the preliminary foresight and background analyses of the Manufacturing 4.0 project.


Photo: Tesla, pixabay.com

Fast Foresight Prototyping for Christmas Mood 2056

Sirkka Heinonen

Foresight can be conducted as “light version” by applying the “fast foresight prototyping” approach. Fast prototyping is a tool frequently used in design, or as rapid prototyping of physical objects or in software engineering. Fast foresight prototyping is based in analogy on thinking that best ideas and insightful innovations may lurk just around the corner – you just have to start catching them and not go too deep in theoretical reflections. That approach is reserved for serious and systematic futures research projects and processes. The research staff of Helsinki Office of Finland Futures Research Centre (FFRC) recently gathered in its last monthly meeting around an improvised fast foresight prototyping exercise. The topic given was “Futures Calendar Window to Christmas 2056”. We made a mental time-travel in three small groups to probe possible images of future Christmas, jumping directly 40 years ahead, and not even looking back but just immersing in the imaginative scenes of the 2056. Futures window is a metaphor used as a method for visualising weak signals, originally developed by Elina Hiltunen. When exploring possible futures, identification of weak signals is fruitful. You both open your mind to future possibilities, sharpen your peripheral vision for detecting weak signals, and then start interpreting your findings. Of course, all this is very polemic and subjective and accordingly very easy to criticize since the weak signals yield different interpretations for different persons.

What glimpses to future social mood at Christmas in Finland did we then see? We didn’t open the futures window to identifying and showing weak signals specifically, but more generally futures images or scenes. Naturally, the origin and sense of Christmas is embedded in Christianity. However, through two millennia Christmas has evolved far beyond being a religious meme, it has become a universal cultural event or festivity, to the extent even losing much its original meaning. Another interesting topic for futures research would be futures of religion that in fact represents a research gap in our field, but it was not the focus of this exercise.

I want to now share some of the ideas we generated as an inspiring co-creative effort in less than an hour. Jim Dator’s Second Law of the Futures claims that “any useful idea about the futures should appear to be ridiculous” can be born in mind and applied here when reading our findings from our “futures calendar”. The main aim was to explore futures, while a corollary aim was to have fun while doing so – a serious teaching given to us by our professor Pentti Malaska. The topic was not given beforehand, but announced at the meeting. The three sub-topics addressed were “food”, “relations”, and “traditions”.

The group on Food at Christmas 2056 focused on the social elements – food at Christmas is still very social and meaningful – something that unites people. There are some new elements, such as huge popularity of vegetarian, vegan, organic and local food. In addition, through multiculturalism a huge array of different dishes and rare spices are brought to everybody’s table. Vegan barbecue with artificial meat is a new concept. Rice is replaced by barley, and the Finnish food innovation from  forty years back (2016) nyhtökaura = pulled oats is mainstream. Oats and bean based protein food has also become an export hit.  However, we also carefully preserve some things from the old times and thus retro-food is blooming.

nyhtokaura-gold-green-foods
Nyhtökaura, Gold & Green Foods, http://www.goldandgreenfoods.com/

Tourism and time travelling associated with Christmas food to Lapland is growing. This means that people travel to Lapland to experience Christmas at any time. So Christmas is not happening just at Christmas, but at any time all year round. Also, companies – especially techemoths invite families of employees, customers etc and arrange Christmas parties within the company or for work vacation. Food is not only social and meaningful, but it has also become political. Finland has a food minister. The famous Finnish Christmas declaration from Turku, our ancient capital, originating from the 1300s has been introduced worldwide as diplomatic peace declaration to Aleppo and other major conflict places – as manifestation of universal peace religion.  The declaration is read out loud to remind people that the time of peace and harmony has begun, and offenders will be facing harsh punishments.

The group on Relations at Christmas 2056 opened up a futures calendar window that is more about personal featuring. The Singularity is already here. People have their persons as robotic and as physical selves.  The robotic selves pull the real selves in sleighs around Christmas time. Due to climate change there is no more snow in Finland. The sleigh is of course levitating, with wheels for casual touchdowns once in a while.  Besides extending living as robotic selves, people may reincarnate as panoptic but friendly sauronic eyes, sending beams to targets with whom they want to continue communicating and relating. The eye may also be satisfied with communicating with the beams only, back and forth. Some people, on the other hand, want to give up totally the digital life and return to analogue and manual devices. Reports can be written with an ancient typewriter, already obsolete, but again 3D printed following the old design, not having to worry at all any privacy issues or cracking, not to mention academic administration systems.  The relations between people are more platonic and sometimes distant. The relation between the robot and the real person may be warmer and safer than between people.

The group on “Traditions at Christmas 2056” focused on lights. At dark Christmas time, the role of lighting is important, both physically and symbolically. People tend to put the lighting on in their houses and yards every year earlier and earlier. As a result, the lights are turned and kept on as constant winter lights, except on Christmas when people instead enjoy the darkness. Gifts are given as immaterial gifts, only a few people give any more material gifts. Members of the families are not even giving gifts to each other, but instead to other families, let’s say charity gifts to a family in Africa. The extremists give gifts to the iconic Finnish welfare state, this form of charity is common – pour money to the Finnish state to keep the state going. Santa Claus has already retired, it is just reindeers who travel from people to people, not necessarily giving gifts but to move people along their route – giving mobility services as a gift. What if people are very satisfied in their work, enjoying relaxing everyday life? Then there is no more need to take breaks, to de-stress. Christmas transforms into festivity for menial work – cleaning and repairing the house, knitting, laundering etc. as the opposite to old days’ concept of relaxing during Christmas, and harvesting energy for further work.

All in all, Christmas is not disappearing. In 2056 it has re-invented itself. It has become a generic social and meaningful time for peace and harmonious interaction. The terrorists’ tragic and pitiful attacks on Christmas fairs is just a token of the powerful meaning of Christmas – as symbol of universal peace and love among all living beings.

Merry Christmas and a More Peaceful New Year!

 

Orienteering with the Futures Map

Petri Tapio

Futures map is a metaphor introduced by a Finnish futurist Osmo Kuusi. He sees the future as a terrain including many possible paths. The futurist’s task is to define plausible alternative paths in this terrain, the scenarios. The paths can concern business branch development options for a client company, societal sector development for public administration, or, for example, career options in personal life management for individuals. I here illustrate the problematics concentrating on energy issues in businesses.

Including strategic thinking and especially the backcasting concept to the metaphor of futures map brings corporate foresight process close to the orienteering sport. In backcasting, the actor sets a goal where to strive for and finds out alternative scenarios, how to get to the goal. Similarly in orienteering, you set a goal, a control on the map, where you wish to run as efficiently as possible. You figure out the alternative routes to the control and try to think beforehand which of them is the fastest. Uncertainty is inherent in decision-making as you do not know for sure which alternative is the fastest.

You also need to consider the risks in strategic foresight as well as orienteering – should you make a short route and stroll through a swamp taking the risk that it is so wet that you actually lose time with the shortcut. Or are you playing it safe and take the easy route of longer distance but easy terrain. For example, are you investing to new technology that promises to solve your production problems or use existing technology more efficiently?

According to my personal experience in the Turku School of Economics orienteering team some controls are really difficult to find. There are four possible reasons for the difficulty:

1) The terrain is heavy, for example having consecutive controls on top of two hills and between them a deep valley. For example reducing energy consumption of a firm is a task that requires lot of work rather than simple tricks. In this case consistency and diligence are called for.

2) The control is difficult to find as it is in a terrain where you see very little forward and get easily lost. For example you wish to take into account all relevant aspects affecting the company’s economic, social and ecological sustainability. In this case it is important to check the map for a clear location and use the compass to move forward.

3) Your skills are not trained well enough, that is you know where to go, but do not know how to get there. This is the case for example when there are no experts of energy saving in the company. This just requires better education in futures research methods.

4) You are lost in the first place. For example you have no quantitative information of energy consumption in the firm that could be used in the strategic decision-making process. In this case you should turn back to the last place where you knew for sure where you were. Think calmly, get the information you need and only then move forward.

When orienteering, you need a compass to know the directions. It does not tell you location but it tells you which way north and other compass points are. I think the parallel for a compass in orienteering with the futures map is consciousness of your values. Ethics form the basis for responsible business (see Matti Minkkinen’s earlier blog post).

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The author is Professor in Futures Research and responsible for the postgraduate studies of Futures Studies in the Doctoral Programme of Turku School of Economics.

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Linturi, Hannu & Rubin, Anita (2014) Metodi, metafora ja tulevaisuuskartta: osa 1. http://www.ebarometri.fi/metodi-metafora-ja-tulevaisuuskartta/

Robinson, John B. (1990) Futures under glass: a recipe for people who hate to predict. Futures 22(8): 820–842. doi:10.1016/0016-3287(90)90018-D http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/0016-3287(90)90018-D

 Picture from Jukolan viesti 2016 orienteering relay © Riku Levälehto