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ESPAS Report 2019 : Global Trends to 2030

Date of Editorial Board meeting: 
Publication date: 
Friday, April 5, 2019
Abstract in English: 
For something as unknown as the future, it appears to have become surprisingly predictable. A Google search of ‘future 2030’ yields more than 97 million results, all more or less claiming similar things: that 2030 will see a more connected, yet fragmented world, with hazardous shifts in demography and energy, and dangerous changes in technology, environment, and politics.
The future, while overall negative, appears to be a rather certain place.
This illusion of definitiveness is created by two dynamics: first, the pessimistic tone that runs through the vast majority of foresight reports. This is a common feature when it comes to future thinking, with one study showing that all studies undertaken on the future over the last 70 years have one thing in common; pessimism. The reason for this is simple: although both optimism and pessimism are natural human dispositions, the latter is more prevalent by far. Humans are, genetically speaking, biased towards the negative – some studies even indicate that this is particularly the case for Europeans. Second, pessimism in foresight is encouraged by the grave air that surrounds it: in general, negative statements are given more attention than positive ones. That said, more pessimism in foresight does not equal greater accuracy, as one study shows.
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Trends in Artificial Intelligence and Big Data

Date of Editorial Board meeting: 
Publication date: 
Thursday, January 24, 2019
Abstract in English: 
This paper addresses the present state of play and future trends, uncertainties and possible disruptions of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Big Data in the following areas:
Political: AI is biased, difficult to scrutinise and to estimate its power, and – more so when embodied in autonomous systems – potentially dangerous. Policy responses are accountability, transparency, safety and control, and public debate. These should be based on ethics. AI will lead to better governance, more debate, new policy actors and processes, a contest over centralisation, and the EU catching up. AI might progress in a revolutionary or evolutionary mode, lead to new political divisions, and change democracy. AI might be misused as a “superior orders” defence. What if data analysis changes or replaces democracy?
Socio-economic: Big Data is changing the role of data, is often dependent on sensitive information, is handicapped in the short term but better in the long term due to data protection, and its industry is in danger of monopolisation. AI lowers the cost of prediction, replaces human prediction and human labour and causes social problems, increased nudging and misuse of the term AI. AI will lead to more data, economic growth and more job market distortions. AI might lead to new industry giants, a request for more privacy, new state solutions, yet unknown jobs, AI taxes and increased state ownership. What if new economic ideologies emerge, singularity strikes or AI monopolies are broken up?
Geopolitical: AI is increasing the power competition between the US and China and gives both more power. Europe tries to create businesses and find its strengths. All are investing in military solutions and the west has a slight disadvantage here. AI will lead to a shakeup of the international system, hierarchies and networks becoming more powerful, and real-life deception being more difficult. AI might lead to China becoming the most powerful power overall and in AI. The future of AI R&D and the success of Europe’s broad approach is uncertain. What if there are two digital worlds, China becomes a data-privacy defender, and AI become targets?
Technological: Superintelligent AI is invested in and researched, challenged by philosophy, and possible this century. It might imitate the brain, be assembled together or be designed by other AIs. An intelligence explosion or a conscious AI could be possible, and might be the last invention of humanity. It would require long term funding, need to overcome many technical hurdles, be dangerous due to its intellect, possibly be contained with collective intelligence, and maybe have humans lose their jobs, safety or purpose.
Key questions for policy-makers: What makes European AI distinctive? What areas can and should we prioritise, if any? What should be regulated? How could and should the EU foster AI development, avoid monopolisation, provide data pools, use high data standards, link researchers and corporations, balance fundamental with applied AI research and private with state funding, boost applications, compensate for job loss, keep AIs away from dangerous actors, support EU foreign policy (neighbourhood, FPI, democracy and human rights, aid and development, economic freedom), improve our lives with AI, change the geopolitical AI race, deal with autonomous weapons and superintelligent AI and organise Foresight?
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19
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The Future of International Trade and Investment (ESPAS Ideas Paper)

Date of Editorial Board meeting: 
Publication date: 
Thursday, September 20, 2018
Abstract in English: 
This paper examines current trends, uncertainties and wild cards in relation to international trade and investment. It then considers implications for the European Union.
The European Union’s interest remains clear: a rules-based order is better than a transactional or winner-takes-all approach to international trade. But it is wise to plan for the worst, while hoping for the best.
The future of international trade and investment may lie somewhere between the extremes of the status quo and a reversion to protectionism. This would involve a thorough revision and rebalancing of multilateral norms, to take account of major global changes on many fronts. The EU has traditionally been a leading player in the creation of international institutions and norms. But the days when Europe could dictate the global agenda are over. Europe’s role will be increasingly a matter of seeking to influence events, rather than asserting dominance. In the coming decades, internal unity and a strong sense of purpose will be all the more important.
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12
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The Future of Warfare (ESPAS Ideas Paper)

Title Original Language: 
The Future of Warfare (ESPAS Ideas Paper)
Original Language: 
Date of Editorial Board meeting: 
Publication date: 
Thursday, September 20, 2018
Abstract in English: 
Warfare is shaped by geopolitical, societal, technological, economic and military trends:
Geopolitical: The multipolar relations between ever bigger political entities with overlapping spheres of influences are defined by surpise and uncertainty. Smaller political entities will be weaker and proxy wars more common in the future. Detterence will be reinterpreted, vulnerable states more prone to aquire nuclear weapons and international norms weakened. Megacities will be central battlefields that leave ground forces vulnerable.
Social: Warfare will shift to the internet, it will be uncontrollably ‘open-source’, live and shocking, with ever more spectacular terror. Armies will be more network-centred, waging more personalised wars and will have to find new ways to interact with democratic societies. Women in combat and the disappearance of world war veterans change the way people think about war.
Technological: Mankind becomes more powerful over time, with non-state actors possessing capabilities currently restricted to super-powers. It will struggle to outlaw technological advances and wage war without violence. The West will lose its technological superiority and will have even bigger problems in knowing how and what to research. Both inferior and highly developed armies will develop new ways of engaging the enemy. Artificial intelligence (AI) will mean that democratic armies have to balance the ‘human in the loop’ policy against effectiveness.
Economic: The economy of the opponent will be a bigger target than in the past, with commercial and dual-goods becoming more important, and the environment a more widely used weapon.
Military: Possible future military situations will be more diverse then ever. Western armies will be vulnerable to cheap weaponry. The idea that wars will be easy to win will make the world more dangerous.
Key uncertainties are China, the cyber-dimension, robotics, autonomous systems and artificial intelligence, paradigmatic breakthroughs such as quantum computing, general AI and anti-ballistic systems, nuclear detterence and nuclear bargaining. Ten key questions for policy-makers focus on strategic autonomy, adaptation, balancing reserves, R&D, cooperation and export, interventions, China, weakening norms, anticipation, communication and procurement.
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Global Trendometer - Essays on medium and long-term global trends

Date of Editorial Board meeting: 
Publication date: 
Thursday, October 6, 2016
Abstract in English: 
The Global Trendometer takes a close look at specialist analysis from a variety of reputable sources. Robust analysis, both of empirical data and of the historical experience, is central to the search for effective responses to the multiple challenges that are likely to face Europe in coming decades. This new publication does not offer recommendations, but it does seek to draw attention to relevant studies and to prompt reflection on how Europe can address future challenges.
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52
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