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By HiiL, 2012

The Law Scenarios to 2030 provide four wind tunnels in which ideas and strategies concerning the law of the future can be tested and debated. The scenarios help us think, imagine, conceptualise and debate in order to make law more than just a reactive force. A force that helps shape a better future.

The scenarios picture possible global legal environments that have emerged in 2030. Each scenario invitesus to imagine the global legal environment in 2030, assuming that the key uncertainties unfold in a specificdirection. In each scenarios four questions are answered:
What is the main ordering?
Who makes the rules?
How are those rules enforced?
How are conflicts resolved?

Global Constitution

If the expansion of international rules and institutions continues, and most of the heavy lifting is done by states and public actors, we may expect that the global legal environment will slowly develop as the European Union has been developing: into a robust legal order of its own that is highly integrated with national legal systems.

Legal Internet

International rules and institutions can also further expand as part of a process of shifting emphasis from law created and enforced by state-connected institutions to private governance mechanisms and private legal regimes. If they do, the global legal environment will be characterised by a growing body of international rules and institutions with an increasingly public-private or even private nature.

Legal Borders

If the process of expansion of international rules and institutions reverses, we may instead see a thickening of legal borders, which may then be dominated by law created by national and public authorities. This global legal environment would be more fragmented; the international legal level would be less important and would include, atmost, the regional level.

Legal Tribes

There is a theoretical possibility that the process of internationalisation will reverse as private legal and governance regimes grow. The global legal environment will then become dispersed, highly chaotic, and have diminishing importance. Its integration will be regional at most and notparticularly law-based. The power of states will diminish and communities will have to depend on local, private legal and governance regimes.

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By Olivier Sparrow, The Challenge Network, 2009

Neglect and Fracture

The ten years after 2010 sees slow growth in the industrial world. The economy of China slows somewhat, both after a period of overheating, and as the first premonitions of demographic change affect its work force. It also sees marked wage inflation amongst skilled workers, and urban-rural divide increases. Otherwise, the world seems relatively tranquil, energy and mineral prices are relatively stable and economic development amongst the poorer nations continues at around 5% per annum.The various military interventions around the world wind down to a tolerable level of dissent, without much resolution and as a moral defeat for the industrial powers. The governments of the industrial world turn their attention to fiscal gaps, skill supply to industry and coping with demographic change.The economic crisis and the consequent slow-down dispelled this certainty. Foreign policy failures, and the inability of the great powers to sort out the political problems of poor nations through the imposition of force, also dispelled confidence. The international narrative falters, and there is no one dominant way of discussing or addressing problems. The poor nations may show adequate growth, but their politics become more idiosyncratic and their governance less open. Adequate growth encourages inward investment, but this tends to be towards short-term projects. Governments are less inclined to open their doors to radical ideas, and very much less inclined to invite investment in "heart land" resources such as energy and minerals.In this environment, the systems issues are not much addressed. The industrial world is not feeling either rich or expansive. The rest of the world is not inclined to be told what to do. Energy and other raw material supply capacity drifts towards demand. Few measures have been put in place to encourage efficiency, at least beyond the industrial world.The world's populations had a limited time to surmount the first of these, the arrival of undeniable systems issues. Unhappily, these arrive quickly and in force. It becomes clear that economic coordination – already weak after the recoil from open markets and coordinated actions – is acutely needed. Low investment and growth amongst the less efficient nations causes supply price spikes in energy and other resources. Some parts of the world become very wealthy, whilst others are precipitated into poverty.The world's populations had a limited time to surmount the first of these, the arrival of undeniable systems issues. Unhappily, these arrive quickly and in force. It becomes clear that economic coordination – already weak after the recoil from open markets and coordinated actions – is acutely needed. Low investment and growth amongst the less efficient nations causes supply price spikes in energy and other resources. Some parts of the world become very wealthy, whilst others are precipitated into poverty.There are economic-environmental no-go areas that stand in the way of development for the poor nations. Political differences accentuate this. The terms of trade for the poor nations have worsened, and there are barriers such as tariffs that block the sale of goods that do not comply with international standards. Resource rich nations have enjoyed surges of prosperity during the period of price spikes, and face both a wide range of suitors and some international odium for having closed their resources to development.

Yesterday’s futures

Growth after 2010 is quick to pick up. The industrial countries carry a debt burden that is purged across the decade, at the cost of about a half percent per annum off their economic growth. However, the general buoyancy tends to compensate for this. Demographic impacts are also limited by a mixture of medical advances, the ability and willingness of the old to carry on working, and considerable improvements in efficiency as both states and companies assess the demands of the future. Efficiency needs to be coupled to systems awareness, however. That is, as nations become concerned about resource supplies, they have three options open to them. Countries may try to lock in supply through bilateral deals with suppliers. These are hard to sustain when the terms of trade change, making one party the loser.A second, more permanent solution is for individual countries to limit their innate demand, which is partly achieved under the banner of efficiency. There are limits to this, because the fast economic growth in the industrialising countries outweighs the savings of any one nation. Left alone, prices will rise for everyone. Such a policy is plainly inadequate unless it is extended to near-universality.Policy therefore strives to minimise demand in general, something which can only be done in collaboration amongst the powerful and the active acquiescence of the poor nations. Central to such measures is a radical overhaul of the energy and other resource systems of poor nations. Obsolete coal fired electricity plants are replaced with more efficient systems, for example. Urban planning and renewal use minimalist, high technology solutions that cut resource demand.This is assisted by new developments, triggered by a clear policy direction and the creation of certain markets. Near-magic materials appear, in which behaviours are embedded, much as the flexure of a bird's wing is intrinsic to its mechanical form. Common cellulose, for example, is able to cross link into materials that have the strength of metals and the stress resistance of collagen, such that what appears to be a sheet of paper can support the weight and vibration of a car motor. Goods are made specifically to deconstruct easily into their constituent parts, so that "waste refineries" are widely used to separate used goods into feed streams, ready for re-use.The third option is also collaborative, at least insofar as a concert of the powerful is required before effective action can be taken. This is to expand overall resource supply in advance of price signals.This is fraught with difficulties. Resource rich countries may prefer shortage and high prices to a predictable income based on lower prices. They may not want their resources opened to international investment. They may see the possession of resources as a guarantee of political weight.In both the second and third option, the sums of money that are involved are extremely large. They are beyond the practical, political grasp of government consortia and certainly beyond the savings of most of the countries in which the investment must be made. The investments will need to come from private savings, and the technology will need to be derived from companies at the front end of the relevant technologies.This implies that there are two major issues to solve if this is to happen. First, the investment must be possible, and appear safe and attractive to the investors. This implies that legal and political predictability must balance the enormous sums that are involved.Second, the resource-rich countries must feel comfortable with such intervention in their internal affairs. This cannot occur until the style in which such investments are made also changes. That is, the model of foreign finance that funds multi-national companies to operate in effective isolation from the host country's domestic political agenda largely disappears. It derives from a former age, and is supplanted by a new form.The result is, in 2030, a very different world from that of 2010. An unstoppable force – the ambition to live the good life – has met an unmovable object, the carrying capacity of the planet and the basic economics of food and raw material production. The complexity inherent in managing the transition that is implied by this collision forces radical simplification. The established a viable pathway to a state in which a significant fraction of the world's population can enjoy what we have termed a "consumer-lite" society. That is, they are well housed and safe in their beds, well-fed and employed, entertained and healthy, and their children are educated to their potential.Yesterday's Future is, however, an end game. It is clear in the 2030 that every last drop of efficiency has been squeezed out of the system, and that even with collaboration, nine billion people cannot climb onto the wagon and hope that it remains stable. Every effort is bent to push the period when standards begin to slip back a few years. However, even with the formidable technology of the times, and with the much larger economy, the sheer complexity of the structure seems to slip between the fingers of government. Its complexity is its vulnerability, and a thin tissue of accommodations and good faith lie between society and sharp decline. This is a situation in which ever-present scrutiny of the citizen is extended in every direction, for malign intent can cause huge damage, mistakes can do the same and even unanticipated surges in demand or traffic can throw out the finely balanced systems of the time. Yesterday's Future feels geriatric, maintained in a careful hothouse in the hope that a new, unexpected door will open.

Waking Up

This is not to say that networks somehow replace or supplant society. Rather, societies generate fertile niches, some of them industries, some of them companies, some activities such as science or medicine, all deeply rooted in a geographical context such as a city and a firm set of institutions. These support, nurture and propagate ways of behaving that are found to be vastly productive. That they happen to look like networks is fortuitous.These structures generate copious quantities of wealth and enormously accelerate the growth of factor productivity. Yesterday's Future is a scenario that is led by consumption, limited by resource availability but fulfilling existing consumer dreams. Waking Up invents new dreams, new ways of existing and living which consumers have not and cannot discover for themselves.Cliques and networks often inter-connect much more effectively than does the general world. That is because their members share education and insight, values and management talent. Individuals often belong to several networks and information flows across these bridges. The fertile niches are also nested, in the sense that more general connectivity encloses the denser specialist frameworks.As 2030 approaches, these networks become less the passive conduit for conversations and instead become agents in their own right. They begin to act, purposefully and to a degree in a way that is independent of their individual participants. One can see the early stages of this today: Internet structures which suggest who you might want to link with, discussions you might wish to enter, products that match your personal preferences. However, by 2030, information technology has gained much broader contextual understanding. It monitors conversations and understands them, it is able to prompt, suggest and guide in ways which go well beyond individual abilities. Corporate structures have the organisation's purpose and values explicit within them, and they are expected increasingly to manage procedures, discussions and the use of knowledge. Done badly, this can be catastrophic, done well and it confers superhuman powers on mere mortals. Such systems are expected one day to think largely for themselves, but at this stage they need human intermediation. Nevertheless, they alter commercial structures beyond recognition, building in a relentless creativity, consistence and goal-directedness. Their direction can be altered by rationality, new information and by group processes, but they cannot be discouraged and they never give up. Collective intelligence will never willing step down to atomistic, ill-informed guesswork.It shows itself in education and the pursuit of knowledge, in communications, interpretation and in entertainment. People rely more and more on on-the-spot delivery of specialist expertise that are based on expert systems and triggered by contextual understanding of the current situation in which the individual is set. The blend of these generates an informed state that can be called "life navigation".The style invades virtual reality, appears in purely social formats and makes itself felt in areas such as activism, specialist interests and religion. An individual might spend time in a consensus reality that mirrored their religious beliefs about the afterlife, for example, meeting others of like mind and together working for the construction of Heaven. However, structures that have the magic of trust, embedded in the required intangible infrastructure, are able to achieve things which less free environments can deliver.In the 2030s, the flow of knowledge is much augmented, and the application of it greatly enhanced. The consequences are a greater creation of value: essentially, the factor productivity of knowledge creation is enhanced.

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From Evolution’s Edge: the Coming Collapse and Transformation of Our World. New Society Publishers, Gabriola Island, BC, September 2008. By Graeme Taylor 

Rapid Collapse

The majority of the world’s political and business leaders resist making major changes and continue with business as usual. As a consequence the pace of environmental destruction will increase and resource shortages will rapidly worsen. The response to shortages will be to increase the rate of exploitation of the planet’s remaining natural capital, a process that will accelerate the destruction of major ecosystems. At some point in the near future cascading environmental, economic and political crises will become uncontrollable. This will cause irreversible damage to social and biophysical systems and bring about the catastrophic collapse of industrial civilization.

Delayed Collapse

The majority of political and business leaders proactively introduces environmentally friendly technologies and provide emergency economic support to prevent unrest and conflict. These efforts will temporarily stabilize the industrial system and slow the pace of global warming and environmental destruction. However, attempts to improve the system without making fundamental changes to its unsustainable culture and economy will fail. The environment will continue to degrade, and efforts to manage crises will consume more and more scarce resources. Although system failure will be delayed, the eventual result will be the same as in the first scenario: the inevitable collapse of major ecosystems and human societies.


As regional and global crises grow and the world economy begins to fail, it becomes increasingly clear to people all over the world that the current global system is unsustainable and heading for catastrophic collapse. More and more people will then question the destructive values and institutions of the industrial system and begin to look for constructive alternatives — pathways to survival. Large numbers of people will be attracted to the developing systems-based vision of a sustainable future. The emergence of this new paradigm will enable the rapid constructive transformation of global views, values, technologies and social structures.

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From Which World? Scenarios for the 21st Century, Global Destinies, Regional Choices. World Resources Institute,1998.By Allen Hammond 

Market World 

This scenario presents a future based on the belief that market forces and new technology will lead to rising prosperity and will offer humanity a bright future, a future in which markets rule and global corporations dominate. In this scenario, economic reform and technological innovation fuel rapid economic growth. Developing regions are integrated into the global economy, creating a powerful global market, and bringing modern techniques and products to virtually all countries. The result is widespread prosperity, peace, and stability. This vision of the future is explicitly or implicitly endorsed by the vast majority of corporate leaders and economic theorists whose voices appear to be bolstered by the failure of centrally-planned economies. 

Fortress World

This scenario describes a grimmer future in which islands of prosperity are surrounded by oceans of poverty and despair, a future of conflict, violence, instability, social chaos, and growing environmental degradation. This scenario is a pessimistic vision based on the failure of market-led growth to redress social wrongs and prevent environmental disasters, at least in many parts of the world, so that on the belief that unconstrained markets will exacerbate these problems, large portions of humanity will be left out of the prosperity that markets bring to others. In this scenario these failures eventually destroy the natural resources and social framework on which markets and economic growth depend. Economic stagnation spreads as more resources are diverted to maintain security and stability. Economic fragmentation occurs where conflict dominates or the social order breaks down. In this scenario enclaves of wealth and prosperity coexist, in tension, with widening misery and growing desperation. 

Transformed World

This scenario shows a future in which fundamental social and political changes offer hope of fulfilling human aspirations. This is a visionary scenario in which fundamental social and political change, possibly even changed values and cultural norms, give rise to enlightened policies and voluntary actions that direct or supplement market forces. This scenario envisions a society in which power is more widely shared and in which new social coalitions work from the grass roots up to shape what institutions and governments do. Although markets become effective tools for economic progress, they do not substitute for deliberate social choices. In this scenario economic competition exists but does not outweigh the larger needs for cooperation and solidarity among the world's peoples and for the fulfilment of basic human needs. This vision asserts the possibility of fundamental change for the better - in politics, social institutions, and the environment.

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By Gilles Bertrand (coord.), Anna Michalski and Lucio R.. Pench for the Forward Studies Unit, European Commission. 1997

Triumphant Markets Scenario.

This scenario echoes the almost uniform movement of the world towards free trade and the market economy. From the early years of the 21st century the United States continues to record excellent economic results. The economic and social systems of the rest of the world are forced to align with the main features of the American model. European political debate swings to more individualistic values - growing respect for private property, social meritocracy, etc. - and the Member States drastically reduce retirement and social protection systems. Europe becomes a dynamic economic entity characterised by strongly growing trade flows, increasing productivity in all sectors, inflation which has been curbed once and for all, and a return to full employment. On the other hand, lurk three main dangers, without the international community being able to control them. These are: the increasing inequality between rich and poor countries (globalisation continues to benefit only a minority of the world's population), the accelerating deterioration in the planet's ecosystem (the consequence of a growing number of human beings attaining western standards of consumption) and the spread of organised crime, which takes full advantage of the opportunities offered by new technologies and trade liberalisation.

The Hundred Flowers Scenario.

In this scenario a maximum use of the new information and communication technologies leads to an explosion of micro-activity, but bureaucracies (both public and private) and traditional political systems are falling apart against a background of crisis among the leading nation states and increased fragmentation of the European area. The years 2000-2005 are marked by a massive crisis of confidence in which attacks on the courts, absenteeism, tax evasion and civil disobedience completely wear down the "big bureaucracies". In this period of confusion, Europeans react by falling back on local life and making increasing use of the underground economy. Local identities are strengthened, and this is accompanied by an explosion of neighbourhood structures and the associative sector. New shared values emerge which are a nostalgic mix of local action, neighbourliness and a return to nature, and the consumer society is gradually replaced by a new form of local economy, more oriented towards the neighbourhood and quality and partly demonetised. The macroeconomic balances are more or less maintained and the economy as a whole manages to regulate itself, but the lack of effective regulatory bodies makes itself felt in more ways than one. Differences in revenue between regions increase, social differences also get wider: systems of social protection start going downhill, even if they continue to irrigate society erratically. In addition, geographical, social and political fragmentation, coupled with the erosion of established structures, gives rise to local outbreaks of violence, ethnic tensions and soaring organised crime.

Shared Responsibilities Scenario.

In Shared Responsibilities the public actor plays a dominant role. Europe carries out a wide-ranging reform of its systems of government at all geographic levels (regional, national and European) and introduces a new method of conducting public action. In a prosperous international situation it manages to carve a middle way which, while not ideal, combines the ideals of solidarity and social cohesion with technological innovation and economic efficiency. The principle of mutual commitment between the citizen and the State also becomes widespread, particularly in fields such as education and social assistance.  As a result of these political advances and the favourable international climate, the overall performance of the European economy is sound and the continent's societies adjust rather well to the situation (the values of trust, solidarity and responsibility are fairly widely shared by Europeans). Poverty and geographical inequality have stopped growing but have stabilised at a high level. Social protection remains solid, even if the generosity of previous decades is clearly no longer fashionable, especially where pensions are concerned.

Creative Societies Scenario.

In Creative Societies, economic and political systems are thoroughly transformed too. The accounting and tax systems are thoroughly overhauled by introducing new taxes on pollution and international financial movements and better use of human capital and the environment. The other major innovation is the recognition and financing of new types of activity outside the market rationale (services of general interest, cultural stimulation, associative activities), each citizen having a time credit of five years to devote to them. To stimulate demand for these new goods, the Member States have introduced a system of vouchers (a proportion of wages may henceforth be paid in the form of leisure and culture cheques). The reforms have had a positive impact on social and regional inequalities and on employment. The economy takes off again gradually, borne up by services, especially the knowledge and creativity sectors (information technology, research, education, etc.), tourism and environmental protection. On the other hand, Creative Societies shows a tendency towards introversion. The scale and difficulty of internal reforms prevented the Union from developing an active external policy. Enlargement is slowed down by the new social and environmental requirements of the Member States

Turbulent Neighbourhoods Scenario.

This scenario is determined to a large extent by the accelerated deterioration in the economic and political situation in Europe's neighbours. Europe tries in vain to become a fortress, and security (both internal and external) becomes the number one public concern. This psychology of the besieged citadel prevents any large-scale economic and social reform and leads to the return in strength of the nation states. The difficult external situation has strong repercussions on Europe's internal life. National governments use security threats to reassert their governmental authority, and the pervading authoritarianism receives massive support from public opinion, which is closed to change and increasingly intolerant. The priority given to security policies pushes into the background the structural reforms required by the economy. The preoccupation with security influences all reforms in all sectors. The accession of new members is severely limited, and the creation of the European Security Council and common security agencies  are the only significant advances as far as European integration is concerned.

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By Millenium Project, World Federation of UN Associations, 1999

By 2050 the world had finally achieved a global economy that appears to be environmentally sustainable while providing nearly all people with the basic necessities of life and the majority with a comfortable living. The resulting social stability has created a world in relative peace, exploring possible futures for the second half of the 21st century. Different explanations have been given for the series of astounding successes achieved by 2050. Some believe that breakthroughs in science and technology were the keys, others that development of the human potential was more fundamental, and still others that political and economic polices made the difference. All three themes were important and mutually reinforcing. 

The following scenarios are depicted:

Technological Theme 

Internet has become a right of citizenship. Businesses give free accounts to all customers; employers give them as an employee benefit. The connection of virtually all people to the global information and communications systems accelerated the pace of scientific research and the introduction and diffusion of new technology. Biotechnology, nanotechnology, and closed-environment agriculture fed the world. New and improved sources of energy made cleaner economic growth. Brain-like intelligent systems used neural networks to augment human intelligence and improve decision making. Molecular manufacturing (nanotechnology) lowered manufacturing unit cost, requiring less volume of materials and energy usage, and hence, lowered the environmental impact of a population that had almost reached 10 billion. Vaccinology and genetic engineering eliminated most acquired and inherited diseases further reducing the need for more frequent pregnancies to have a similar sized family. This was a factor in further lowering fertility rates, even though generational mini-booms have continued from the great population explosion in the mid-20th century. Cyberspace had become a major medium of civilization creating a constantly growing, non zero-sum economy and had changed day-to-day life as significantly as the industrial revolution had changed life 200 years earlier. The success of the International Space Station had led to other orbital habitats, the lunar base, and the pioneer communities on Mars. Nearly 250,000 people now work in space communities in orbit, on the moon, and on Mars, giving a new frontier for human imagination and advances in civilization. 

Human Development Theme

The acknowledgment that education was the solution to many problems and that the knowledge economy was spreading rapidly, stimulated governments and corporations worldwide to increase their investments in education, training, and applications of cognitive science. The race to educate the world began after the World Summit on Cognitive Development in 2010. Most institutions that had even a peripheral association with education began debating the most equitable and cost/effective ways to make everyone knowledgeable, virtuous, and intelligent. Internet access became a right of citizenship. Educational software was imbedded into nearly everything that could hold a computer chip. The World Cyber Games permeating daily life blending entertainment and education.

Political Economic Policy

Theme The number of wars decreased as democracies and respect for cultural diversity increased in the early 21st century. Although old cultural conflict wounds of the past still flare occasionally, we can successfully avert and prevent them for growing into larger conflicts. The resulting social stability nurtured economic growth and created 2 billion people in the global middle class by 2010. This increased conditions for further stability and sustainable growth that moved over 5 billion people in the middle class by 2050.

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By Millenium Project, World Federation of UN Associations

S&T Develops a Mind of its Own 

The rate of scientific discoveries and advanced technological applications exploded. A global science/social feedback system was at work: science made people smarter, and smarter people made better and faster science. Better and faster science opened new doors to discovery, and new doors led to synergies and solving of old roadblocks. Removing the roadblocks created new science that made people smarter. S&T moved so fast that government and international regulations were left in the dust. Science and technology appeared to be taking on a mind of its own. 

The World Wakes Up

The murder of 25 million people in 2021 by a self-proclaimed Agent of God who created   the genetically modified Congo virus finally woke the world up to the realization that an individual acting alone could create and use a weapon of mass destruction. This phenomenon became known as SIMAD—Single Individual Massively Destructive. Regulatory agencies and mechanisms were put into place to control the science- and technology-related dangers that became apparent. Education was a big part of the answer, but connecting the educational systems with the security systems was disturbing to some people. Nevertheless, further individual acts of mass destruction were prevented. International and government regulations did manage the S&T enterprise for the public good. 

Please Turn off the Spigot 

Science was attacked as pompous and self-aggrandizing, as encouraging excesses in consumption, raising false hopes and—worse—unexpected consequences that could destroy us all. Particularly worrisome was accidentally or intentionally released genetically modified organisms and the potential for weapons of mass destruction. The poor were ignored. A science guru arose to galvanize the public. A global commission was established but failed because of corruption. But a new commission with built-in safeguards seemed to be working. 


Control was low and science moved fast, but negative consequences caused public alarm.  The golden age of science was hyped by the media, but it all proved to be a chimera. Some of the most valued discoveries and new capabilities had a downside and surprises abounded. Rogue nations took advantage of some of these shortcomings. The level of concern rose. Mobs protested. Regulation failed.  Progress stalled. And corporate (or government) scientists frequently felt pressure from within their organizations.  Both corporate and government organizations could not be counted on to self-regulate. What’s next?

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By Global Scenarios Group, Stockholm Environment Institute, 1998

The GSG scenarios are based on a two-tier hierarchy. Conventional Worlds, Barbarization and Great Transitions represent fundamentally different social visions. Within each of these classes, a range of variants is considered. The GSG’s analysis has focused on the six scenarios described below.

Conventional Worlds

This scenario is a story of a market-driven world in the 2lst Century in which demographic, economic, environmental and technological trends unfold without major surprise. Continuity, globalization and convergence are key characteristics of world development — institutions gradually adjust without major ruptures, international economic integration proceeds apace and the socioeconomic patterns of poor regions converge slowly toward the model of the rich regions. Despite economic growth, extreme income disparity between rich and poor countries, and between the rich and poor within countries, remains a critical social trend. Environmental transformation and degradation is a progressively more significant factor in global affairs.

  • Market Forces. This variant incorporates mid-range population and development projections, and typical technological change assumptions. The problem of resolving the social and environmental stress arising from global population and economic growth is left to the self-correcting logic of competitive markets.
  • Policy Reform. Policy Reform adds strong, comprehensive and coordinated government action, as called for in many policy-oriented discussions of sustainability, to achieve greater social equity and environmental protection. The political will evolves for strengthening management systems and rapidly diffusing environmentally-friendly technology, in the context of proactive pursuit of sustainability as a strategic priority.


These scenarios envision the grim possibility that the social, economic and moral underpinnings of civilization deteriorate, as emerging problems overwhelm the coping capacity of both markets and policy reforms.The major driving forces propelling this scenario include worldwide political and economic changes, inequity and persistent poverty, growing populations, environmental degradation and technological innovation. Following the breakdown of the Soviet Union, capitalism is ascendant everywhere. A critical uncertainty, however, is whether the countries of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe will make a successful transition to market-based economies and democratic political systems.The resentment of poor people rises. Increased exposure to global media and tourism in underdeveloped regions accentuates the immense differences in life styles between rich and poor. The conviction festers that the poor have been cheated out of development, that their options have been pre-empted by the wealthy. Among intellectuals in developing countries, awareness grows that high consumption life styles will not be available to all who might aspire to it. A new social actor emerges: educated, downwardly mobile and angry. Social polarization feeds off the disenchantment of the rich and resentment of the poor.Technological advance initially continues. But scientific and technical knowledge becomes increasingly a private commodity and decreasingly part of the public domain, slowing progress on fundamental problems.Severe social and military conflict spread. Social tensions fester in the context of deepening socio-economic inequity, increased morbidity, and reduced access to natural resources.

  • The Breakdown. In this variant, the vicious cycle of chaos, conflict and desperation spiral out of control. The security apparatus within remaining privileged areas cannot contain the tide of violence from disaffected individuals, terrorist organizations, ethno religious groups, economic factions, and organized crime. Collapse of civil order becomes widespread, as populations become increasingly desperate and governments weaken. Refugees fleeing from chaotic zones destabilize neighbouring areas, inadvertently contributing to widening waves of disorder. To stem migration, increasing resources are devoted to police powers, border security, and control of the activities of citizens. The global economic, finance and governance systems founder, though the media lingers to spread fresh news of upheaval. The retreat of globalization is particularly devastating for industrial economies highly dependent on trade and imported natural resources. The result is raising unemployment, economic depression, political instability, and outbreaks of civil disorder, even in rich countries. This self-reinforcing chain of events eventually leads to a general disintegration of social, cultural, and political institutions, deindustrialization (to varying degrees in different regions), and in many regions a return to semi-tribal or feudal societal structures. With the collapse of markets and investment generally, technological progress halts -- and the level of technological capability regresses. Population eventually begins to decrease as mortality rates surge with economic collapse and environmental degradation. Many couples, deeply pessimistic about the future, choose not to bring children into the world. In a bitter irony, equity increases but only because everybody gets poorer.  Breakdown conditions could persist for many decades before social evolution to higher levels of civilization again becomes possible.
  • The Fortress World. In the Fortress World variant, powerful regional and international actors comprehend the perilous forces leading to Breakdown. They are able to muster a sufficiently organized response to protect their own interests and to create lasting alliances between them. Arising within the cynical and pessimistic social mood of Barbarization conditions, these alliances are not directed at improving the general well-being, but at protecting the privileges of rich and powerful elites. This is viewed as a matter of necessity in a world in which wealth, resources and conventional governance systems are eroding. The elite retreat to protected enclaves, mostly in historically rich nations, but in favoured enclaves in poor nations, as well.The authorities employ active means of repression to guarantee exclusive access to needed resources (such as oil fields and key mines) and to stop further degradation of the global commons of air and ocean resources. Draconian measures are required to control social unrest and migration. Strategic mineral reserves, freshwater and important biological resources are put under military control.

Great Transitions

Great Transitions explore visionary solutions to the sustainability challenge, including new socioeconomic arrangements and fundamental changes in values. They depict a transition to a society that preserves natural systems, provides high levels of welfare through material sufficiency and equitable distribution, and enjoys a strong sense of social solidarity. Population levels are stabilized at moderate levels and material flows through the economy are radically reduced through lower consumerism and massive use of green technologies.

  • The Eco-Communalism. Eco-communalism envisions a patchwork of semi-isolated and self-reliant communities. If this world were ever to occur, it might be quite sustainable with high equity, low economic growth, and low populations. Advances in the understanding of human behaviour, in psychological dynamics and in holistic education could minimize the likelihood of the emergence of aggressive behaviour.Nevertheless, a major threat to sustainability could come from the possibility that some of the more or less isolated communities develop into aggressive, expansionist forces which attempt to dominate neighboring communities. That said, it is difficult to identify a plausible trajectory leading from the present situation to Eco-communalism. The acceleration of globalization and the complexity of modern economies suggest that, even if there were a transition to such a society, it is likely to be mediated through a series of other social formations.
  • New Sustainability Paradigm. In the New Sustainability Paradigm, equity and sustainability, rather than economic growth, come to define development. Material sufficiency becomes the preferred lifestyle, while ostentatious consumption is viewed as primitive and a sign of bad taste. Some transnational corporations accept -- even advocate, in some notable cases -- the need for general limits and constraints around a new business ethic of eco-efficiency. Others resist change, but under popular pressure organized locally, nationally, and globally, governments and corporations begin negotiations around a New Planetary Deal. Building on intentional reductions in material consumption in rich countries, agreements are reached on international mechanisms for the redistribution of wealth. These transfers are tied to voluntary reductions in family size in countries with fast growing populations and to meeting globally agreed environmental targets.

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By European Patent Office

Four scenarios were developed to seek how intellectual property and patenting might evolve over the next fifteen to twenty years:

Market Rules Scenarios (A world where business is the dominant driver)

This scenario is the story of the consolidation of a system so successful that it is collapsing under its own weight. New forms of subject matter - inevitably including further types of services - become patentable and more players enter the system. The balance of power is held by multinational corporations with the resources to build powerful patent portfolios, enforce their rights in an increasingly litigious world and drive the patent agenda. A key goal is the growth of shareholder value. Patents are widely used as a financial tool to achieve that end.  In the face of ever-increasing volumes of patent applications, various forms of rationalisation of the system occur and it moves to mutual recognition of harmonised patent rights. The market decides the fate of the system, with minor regulation of visible excesses. Patent trolling, anti-competitive behaviour and standards issues all come under scrutiny.

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Whose Game? (A world where geopolitics is the dominant driver)

This scenario is the story of a boomerang effect which strikes today's dominant players in the patent world as a result of changing geopolitical balances and competing ambitions. The developed world increasingly fails to use IP to maintain technological superiority; new entrants try to catch up so they can improve their citizens' living standards. But many developing world countries are excluded from the process, and work instead within a 'communal knowledge' paradigm. Nationals and cultures compete and IP has become a powerful weapon in this battle. The new entrants become increasingly successful at shaping the evolution of the system, using it to establish economic advantage, adapting the existing rules as their geopolitical influence grows Enforcement becomes increasingly difficult and the IP world becomes more fragmented. Attempts are made to address the issues of development and technology transfer.

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Trees of knowledge (A world where society is the dominant driver)

In the story told in this scenario, diminishing societal trust and growing criticism of the IP system result in its gradual erosion. The key players are popular movements - often coalitions of civil society, businesses, concerned governments and individuals - seeking to challenge existing norms. This kaleidoscope Society is fragmented yet united - issue by issue, crisis by crisis - against real and perceived threats to human needs: access to health, knowledge, food and entertainment. Multiple voices and multiple world views feed popular attention and interest, with the media playing an active role in encouraging debate. This loose 'knowledge movement' echoes the environmental movement of the 1980s, initially sparked by small, established special interest groups but slowly gaining momentum and raising wider awareness through alliances such as the A2K (Access to Knowledge) movement. The main issue is how to ensure that knowledge remains a common good, while acknowledging the legitimacy of reward for innovation.

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Blue Skies (A world where technology is the dominant driver)

The final scenario is the story of a split in the patent system. Societal reliance on technology and growing systemic risks force this change; the key players are technocrats and politicians responding to global crises. Complex new technologies based on a highly cumulative innovation process are seen as the key to solving systemic problems such as climate change, and diffusion of technology in these fields is of paramount importance. The IP needs of these new technologies come increasingly into conflict with the needs of classic, discrete technologies. In the end, the patent system responds to the speed, interdisciplinary and complex nature of the new technologies by abandoning the one-size-fits-all model: the former patent regime still applies to classic technologies while the new ones use other forms of IP protection, such as the license of rights. The patent system relies on technology, and new forms of knowledge search and classification emerge.

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By European Commission, 2011

The aim of the INFU foresight project is to explore and discuss the implications of future innovation patterns for business and policy. The INFU scenarios are designed to address this shortcoming. They depict comprehensive, consistent and plausible images of possible future European innovation landscapes, showing the main actors, their societal environment, specific challenges, and implications for wealth creation, social cohesion and sustainable development. As a time horizon, we selected 2025, a year which is close enough to the present to make the scenarios relevant for today’s decision making yet remains far enough in the future to make major changes in innovation patterns imaginable and even probable.

  • Baseline scenario. Nothing changes. The baseline, or reference, scenario shows an almost unaltered future as regards present structures and present innovation patterns. The challenges resulting from an ageing and shrinking population, global competition, environmental issues and resource scarcity are inadequately met. Ultimately, muddling-through politics lead to decline. In the global innovation race, the European Union falls behind.
  • Scenario 1: Unleashing the Creative Spirit. Europe’s Innovative Societies. By2025, the European Union has become energised by a new spirit of creativity and has turned into the world’s innovation centre, a global innovation hotspot, offering excellent research conditions and providing the world with sustainable innovations, helping it to cope with the grand challenges of our times. European societies have become a highly valued source for new product and services ideas, but above all for social innovation. In addition, sustainable business and consumption patterns have become the norm – economic growth and social welfare are no longer exclusively defined in monetary values.
  • Scenario 2: The Exhausted Giant. European Innovation Fatigue. Demographic ageing, inadequate policy responses, high competitive pressure from other extremely innovative world regions, and a certain “innovation fatigue” of its population cause the European Union to lose most of its innovation capacity by2025. Faced with this situation, policymakers and entrepreneurs stick to obsolete models of growth and welfare, education and innovation. The few remaining innovation activities are exclusively business- driven and not embedded in systemic approaches to sustainable development.
  • Scenario 3: Locally-Driven Innovation – Cities Go Ahead. In 2025, Europe’s innovation landscape has changed significantly. Cities, agglomerations, and regional governments have replaced European or national bodies as the most important mediators and facilitators of innovation. They made up for the lack of national and EU guidance and the entrepreneurs’ growing reluctance to innovate. Thanks to local citizen initiatives, Europe’s innovation capacity has returned to a high level while companies play only a moderate role for pushing innovations. In 2025, innovation is realised and organised at the local micro level and provides solutions mainly, but not only, for urban challenges.
  • Scenario 4: Prometheus Unbound: Innovations for Innovation’s Sake. Europe has set the course for innovation and competitiveness. All major actors – from commerce, politics, and society as such – collaborate to open and streamline innovation processes, overhaul rigid administrative systems and promote innovation at every level, financially and by providing good framework conditions. Europeans are highly motivated to contribute ideas. Since innovations are guided mostly by an economic rationale, environmental problems are not addressed in a comprehensive and effective way and a part of the population drops out of this fast-paced lifestyle.

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By World Business Council for Sustainable Development, 2001

Depending on the nature of public reaction to an unintended event that might happen in biotechnology, the acceptability of biotechnology might fluctuate widely – a story explored in the first scenario, The Domino Effect. 

The industry could prosper or not depending on factors other than technological success and sustainable development benefits – risk and liability issues, for example, or consumer choice in relation to issues of sustainable development. These variables are explored in the second story, The Hare and the Tortoise.

The third unknown had to do with the consequences of a successful and widely accepted biotechnology industry – what kind of world might this produce? And how might wide acceptance come about? The story of Biotrust is a response to these questions.

In a way, scenarios can be seen as virtual stage sets for imagining, in detail, many different possibilities for the future – possibilities that push us out of the box of our habitual modes of thinking and into the future, which is always unpredictable.

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European Commission. DG Regional Policy, 2008

The conclusions of the informal meeting of the EU ministers responsible for spatial planning and regional development (Leipzig, May 2007) invited the European Commission to "prepare a report on territorial cohesion by 2008". The Green Paper therefore launches a debate on territorial cohesion with a view to deepening the understanding both of the concept and of its implications for policy, cooperation and coordination.

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Directorate-General for Research,
European Commission, 2006.

The overall aim of the current study is: to assist European policy makers to identify future needs with regard to changing professional skills and new job profiles, due to developments in Science & Technology, by providing a roadmap that will help anticipate upon the required response in terms of changes to the educational system, training practices and human resource strategies.

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