Always Prepared!

21.04.2017

A few words on the Future Preparedness Index, the Valdai Discussion Club and VTsIOM’s joint project.

In these times of global changes and challenges, it is most important to know what must be done to at least survive, or even better, to succeed. This is what the Future Preparedness Index study is dedicated to achieving. It will look at the capabilities of countries as the main agents of global affairs to respond to the challenges of the future and comply with the observed global development trend.

The Index that is being discussed presupposes a comparison of the G20 countries according to ten mega-parameters, each of which is broken up into three or four sub-parameters. The scope of mega-parameters includes such areas as technology, economics, international influence, system of governance, security and sovereignty, resources and the environment, education, science, culture and communications, and society.

From the point of view of methodology, creating such an index is not a simple task, but a very curious one. Most of all, because no one knows what the future will be like. One could suppose, or more importantly, forecast, what could happen, but the probabilistic character of any grounded study is obvious.

In personal life, a young student matriculating into the first year of university plans his future, but does not know his fate and therefore must study various subjects the necessity of which in the future is not obvious. Still, a decent instructor, observing students, can, with a good degree of certainty, determine which students will succeed, and which will not. Therefore, it turns out that in young students there are some traits that more or less testify to their readiness for the future or the management of their personal “tomorrow” in a developing situation. Obvious traits of our students include, for example, general abilities, health, origin and place of residence, character trains, particularly perseverance and ambition, communication skills, knowledge of subjects, foreign language skills and so on. Of course, no personal traits will give one-hundred-percent guarantees, but they still allow one to make grounded hypotheses of their possible future and their preparedness to twists of fate.

Applying such preparedness for the future to the countries is nearly more difficult than applying them to individuals. This is at least because countries are much more different than people, and function among other agents of international life, such as multinational corporations and international organizations. In addition, the modern world exists in conditions of growing communications activity, which in many ways dilutes the agency of modern states.

The Future Preparedness Index is not so much about the future, as it is about the present. We are trying to understand what will determine the traits of tomorrow, which particulars of a given country can help us understand how prepared it is for variations of the future and how much it influences the creation of this very future.

Again, methodologically, this is a difficult task at least because the mega-parameters of the index intersect with the simple parameters. Therefore, all parameters must be defined, weighed and collated to create an overall score.

The course of the task is clear. It includes preliminary analysis of already existing and quite numerous indexes, ratings and statistical data. I’d like to note that despite the wealth of similar indicators, of those that we know of, there is no integrative index of countries’ preparedness for the future.

Possibly, this is a result of its complexity as such work presupposes combining various techniques of evaluating the preparedness of countries. Besides the aforementioned analysis of existing data, it is impossible to continue without a survey of an international panel of experts created for this purpose and the creation of aggregate indicators of each sphere.

One of the peculiarities of modern life is that mankind has acquired an incredible technological might. Of course, the Sun will dim one day, and the Earth may “spiral off into infinity.” But if no natural cataclysms beyond the customary scope occur, mankind is theoretically capable of controlling the environment and its standard of living. This only demands a certain level of consensus.

It is by virtue of this, that the circumstance of creating indexes that describe preparedness for the future is, in my view, very important, as it shows the level at which the country and its population are involved in the framing of the future. There is no doubt that the future that occurs will be the result of the efforts of humanity, although of a mankind living in different countries. I repeat, modern communications make the effort of creating the future trans-border in a significant respect, but still, for now, countries and their governments are acting as the main agent of regulation and development governance.

As it seems to me, the attempt of studying a Future Preparedness Index is quite curious, at least heuristically.


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