By Sara Giovannini and Fabiana Scapolo

On January 29th the JRC hosted the first event in the framework of the JRC Megatrends Series. Through a series of lectures, we aim at improving the understanding of Megatrends – long-term driving forces that are observable now and might have significant influence on the future, and their interactions.

The EU Policy Lab has been intensively working on Megatrends in the framework of its foresight activities. Over the last year, our foresight team, supported by other foresight experts, has identified a set of 14 global megatrends that are relevant for the future of Europe, organized in the Megatrends Hub (which will be publicly available from  June 2018). The Megatrends Hub is a dynamic collective intelligence system where the Megatrends are updated and assessed on a continuous basis. It constitutes a foresight knowledge management infrastructure.

On the occasion of Professor Goldin’s visit, who was the first distinguished guest of the JRC Megatrends Series, our Director General Vladimir Šucha officially launched the Megatrends Hub to all the European Commission’s employees. It will be soon available as a collaborative portal and we hope to engage and reach out to foresight practitioners, policy makers and other relevant stakeholders interested in the development of Megatrends not only as passive users/beneficiaries but also as contributors.

Ian Goldin, Professor of Globalisation and Development at Oxford University and Director of the Oxford Martin Programme on Technological and Economic Change, provided stimulating food for thought on the new challenges and opportunities facing the EU over the next 15 years and beyond. After the lecture, we had the chance for a short interview with Prof. Goldin on the future of Europe; see the video below.

Following is a short overview of the most interesting points made by Prof. Goldin’s during his lecture:

One of the greatest challenges of thinking about Europe in the coming decades is to think not about Europe, but to think about the World

There are drivers of change that are happening, new technologies being developed elsewhere: how the EU is interacting with those forces will determine its future.

If you believe in the random distribution of exceptional talent, there are going to be a lot more geniuses out there [outside the EU] that will change our lives

The World Wide Web allowed for an incredible amount of information to be accessible, but also for new collaboration and ideas to be shared. The nature of learning has changed, the pace of innovation is accelerating and therefore it is much more difficult to predict what will happen. A great deal of humbleness is required when navigating the future, but getting the structural drivers right definitely puts you in a good position.

We should consider all implications deriving from an integrated world

Living in an integrated world means that what is happening in a region can bring important consequences to another. Not only good things are quickly shared, but also bad things spread at faster speed. Let’s think for example about a financial crisis in an integrated market or about diseases with the level of airplane traffic.

Current levels of complexity make policymaking and politics extremely difficult

There are more and more participants in any process, change comes from many different places. The possibility to shape the future seems beyond any politician’s control and this is part of the reason why trust in government is quite low nowadays. How can we rebuild that trust?

When things change more rapidly, people get left behind more quickly

There is a lot more inequality in a fast changing world: being in the right place, at the right time, with the right skills makes the difference nowadays. How can we ensure that everyone can benefit from globalisation?

The debate on ethical and security issues brought by new technologies and the internet of things needs to happen now

New technologies and advancements in the medical field are bringing a lot of ethical questions to the table. Europe needs to define its attitude towards these technologies as soon as possible. Do we allow them? What are we going to do if we don’t allow them but others do?

The fact that a technology exists doesn’t mean that we need to adopt it, but if Europe wants to adopt a certain policy towards a new technology, it will need to make sure that its citizens feel the same way.

Additionally, security questions arise considering how easily accessible these new technologies are. A single individual can become extremely powerful – Prof. Goldin referred to it as “democratisation of threat”.

Anything that is routine and rule-based can be done by a machine

This has huge implication on the future of jobs as many of them (an estimated 40%) could be actually replaced by artificial intelligence in the next decades. What would the jobs of the future be? What skills do we need to develop in order to be ready? What are the implications for career prospects and pensions?

We need to think about the way we manage globalisation’s spill overs

Natural resources are not infinite, nature has thresholds. Short termism and national interests make it very difficult to deal with challenges such as climate change and conservation. If the current global governance system is not well fit to address present challenges, how could Europe lead and demonstrate that there are alternative ways forward?

By allowing people to experience change, we can reduce anti-change forces

Given the decreasing trust in experts and authorities, mostly caused by the relatively recent international crisis (e.g. financial crisis, Volkswagen scandal) it is difficult for citizens to believe that globalisation can still be beneficial. This is particularly true for the people who are far away from the places where change is happening – the ones who are left behind. Europe needs to make sure everyone is benefiting from change and has access to dynamic cities.

If you are interested in discussing megatrends’ implication for policy, please get in touch with us!

The EU Policy Lab just launched a new engagement tool based on the set of megatrends. The Megatrend Engagement tool has been developed to help policymakers and different stakeholders thinking about the future. During a 3-hour session, 14 ‘megatrends cards’ are used to explore the potential implications the megatrends might have on policy domains. Through discussions and skilful monitoring, the participants are helped to identify actions, actors and policies, as well as set priorities for their respective spheres of activity.

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