The future is an ambiguous gray zone. It is not clear: either it is, or it is not, but everyone is sure that it will come. What can it become for us? Are we ready for it? And is it even possible in this unpredictable modern world to predict what will happen in a few years? The initiators of the Future Preparedness Index project believe that it is possible, but with some reservations.
On January 20, the Moscow School of Management SKOLKOVO hosted a discussion on the Future Preparedness Index, a joint project of the Valdai Club and VTsIOM. The Index reveals the potential of the G20 states, which presents a complex geopolitical palette that is the best suitable for such an analysis. The first study, as VTsIOM General Director Valery Fedorov recalled at the beginning of the discussion, was conducted three years ago in 2017, and the second in 2019. At this stage, the collected data already allows us to capture the dynamics of changes in preparedness for the future.
Returning to the origins of the Index, Andrey Bystritskiy, chairman of the Board of the Foundation for the development and support of the Valdai Discussion Club, explained that each country has a set of parameters that somehow determine its future and make it more or less vulnerable over time. The Index covers all the relevant parameters that can be read in detail in the 2019 report, but the discussion in Skolkovo was dedicated to one of them - management systems. This parameter in a hypothetical state of the future will be evaluated according to four trends: higher efficiency of administration, computerized public services,counteracting corruption, and resilient institutes. Depending on the indicators for these trends, the Index divides 20 state entities into three categories: “leaders”, “average performers” and “outsiders”.
It is interesting, that since 2017 almost all state entities have improved their ratings within the parameter, but this did not happen linearly. For example, Argentina is the only country that has made a breakthrough (mainly due to the improvement of the “anti-corruption measures” and “resilient institutes”) and moved from the “outsiders” to the “average performers”. However, in terms of “higher efficiency of administration”, Argentina remained among the “outsiders”. Russia, as in 2017, remained among the “average performers” in 2019. While it improved its rating in the “fhigher efficiency of administration” and “resilient institutes” trends, it is an “outsider” in counteracting corruption (like China).
In 2019, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, Australia, the United States, Canada, South Korea and France were “leaders” in the “management system” parameter. "Average performers" include the EU, Italy, Russia, China, Turkey and Mexico. Among the "outsiders" were Saudi Arabia, India, Brazil, South Africa, and Indonesia. Of course, each of these countries has its own “growth zones” (that is, as Valery Fedorov softly explained, “weaknesses”), as well as drivers of positive dynamics. The main thing is to be able to use them correctly.
One of the graduates of the Master in public strategy programme of the Moscow School of Management SKOLKOVO, who took part in the discussion, noted that the rating of Russia in many respects is rather low. Perhaps, he suggested, this was because the Index relies on Western-style research. Valery Fedorov answered that during the compilation of the Index, the task was to avoid ideologisation. “The fact that Russia is not in the leading positions in the Index is just a positive moment, its main value. Another question is what must be done if Russia’s place in the Index does not suit us. He answered himself: ‘Change reality, not methodology.’”
A graduate of the Moscow School of Management tried to “change reality”, more precisely the future, deciding to “bring” a hypothetical country to a hypothetical bright future. What will happen if the performance of countries suddenly improves to the extreme points for all of the above trends? Computerization of the public services will increase so much that it will be possible to press a button without leaving home, and have any problem resolved. As a result of this, the administrative apparatus and institutions will cease to be in demand, and corruption would disappear on its own, since informatisation will make all processes transparent and controlled. There will be three IT specialists who will manage the whole system ... But is this the future we are waiting for?
The utopia in front of our eyes turned into a dystopia, and Andrey Bystritskiy recalled “psychohistory”, a fictional science in Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation” series of sci-fi novels, which made it possible to predict the future with a high degree of accuracy using mathematical methods to research society. He noted that the parameters and trends that were chosen for the Index are interconnected, are important at the moment, and will remain so in the foreseeable future. Of course, although today we do not have enough mechanisms for more accurate forecasting, it would be quite nice to “screw up” the future somehow so that the development of the world order would become more sustainable.
It is by insisting that reality must be changed, rather than methodology, Valery Fedorov specified, that allows the Index to create an image of the most probable future, which implies an equal opportunity for crises and breakthroughs, while helping to understand the chaos of the modern world. The future, of course, is a loose concept, but the Index covers a horizon of 10 years - it is impossible to predict further due to the rapid changes affecting the world. In addition, the purpose of the Index is not to divide states in the future into “leaders”, “average performers” and “outsiders”, but to provoke discussions about what our country and other countries should do to improve their place in the ranking.
Of course, today we are all ready for the future with varying degrees of success. But, most importantly, we are all waiting for it, and it is in our power to make it a little better and avoid being counted among the "outsiders".