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Report

The rise of the futurists: The perils of predicting with futurethink

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Policymakers, facing increasingly uncertain contemporary and future security and technology environments, are engaging in futurethink — using fictional scenarios to make predictions about the results of introducing artificial intelligence (AI) and other emerging technologies into these environments. Futurists engage in this process by providing scenarios to ameliorate uncertainty, drawing on a suite of tools that include simulations, worst-case planning, war-gaming, and even science fiction narratives.

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Amy J. Nelson

Research Associate - University of Maryland's Center for International and Security Studies

Fellow - Center for the Study of Weapons of Mass Destruction at National Defense University

A common futurethink tactic is to switch from risk-based probabilistic thinking, which is vulnerable to various decisionmaking pathologies, to possibilistic thinking — creatively generating scenarios outside of expected outcomes with a focus on impacts rather than probabilities. This move avoids some pathologies but is still subject to many biases and must be implemented judiciously.

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