Actors, Capacities, Venues and Effects
New Horizons in Public Policy series
Edited by Andrew J. Jordan and John R. Turnpenny
Chapter 3: Scenarios: tools for coping with complexity and future uncertainty?
We cannot predict the future with certainty, but we know that it is influenced by our current actions, and that these in turn are influenced by our expectations. This is why future scenarios have existed from the dawn of civilization and have been used for developing military, political and economic strategies. Does the existence of scenarios help to accomplish the desired outcomes? It is fair to say that in most cases the answer to this question is no, simply because history is normally an open, undetermined process, where sudden and unexpected events can play a decisive, disruptive role. Could the French Revolution have been prevented if Louis XVI’s counsellors had had the imagination to develop a shock-scenario, foreseeing the impact of the volcanic eruptions in Iceland and Japan, and the consequent crop failures in 1784 and 1785 and food scarcity in France – often cited as a proximate cause of the French Revolution in 1789? This is debatable to say the least.