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

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

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

Five identified drivers of develo­p­ments …

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

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

… five scenarios

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

Scenario 1: ‘Energy’ – A connected affluent society

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

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

Scenario 2:Forced Harmony’

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

Scenario 3: ‘Blue Steel’ – Polarized world

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

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

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

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

Scenario 4: ‘Ginger’ — Forced Renun­ciation

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scenario 5: Insta­bility — collapse and complete unpre­dic­ta­bility

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

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

Most scenarios show a rather gloomy future — and now?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trans­lation based on using DeepL