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Namur (Wallonia), August 28, 2021

Anticipating means visualising and then acting before the events or actions occur. This implies taking action based on what is visualised, which just goes to show how complex the process is and how problematic our relationship is with the future. The saying “to govern means to foresee » is at odds with this complexity principle. It also refers to individual responsibility. Blaming politics is a little simplistic and unfair, as it is up to each of us to govern ourselves, which means we must “anticipate”. Yet we are constantly guilty of not anticipating in our daily lives.

 

1. Our relationship with the future

 Our relationship with the future is problematic. There are five different attitudes, of which anticipation is merely the fifth. The first is common: we go with the flow; in other words, we wait for things to happen. We hope everything will go well. It is business as usual, or we have always done this as they say in Wallonia. We can also echo the words used by the miners whenever the colliery tunnels were shored up: it can’t hurt, it’s not dangerous, it’s strong, it’s reliable, etc. My father taught me to ridicule this cavalier attitude and, above all, to challenge it.

The second attitude is more active: it involves playing by the rules and working within the norms. The elected officials pay close attention to this, and so do we all. We have to have an extinguisher in our car in case of fire, but mostly to comply with the legal obligations, regulations, technical checks, and so on. Note that public buildings and businesses are also required to have them and to ensure that they are checked regularly. Very few people have one or more fire extinguishers in their house or apartment, and, even if they do, they may not be in working order or suitable for the different types of fire that may occur. We know that it is not a legal requirement, so most people don’t bother about it.

The third attitude towards the future is responsiveness: we respond to external stimuli, and we adapt quickly to the situations that arise. Images of firefighters and emergency workers come to mind, of course, and entrepreneurs as well. Responsiveness may be a virtue, but we know that it is sometimes ineffective in the face of fast-moving events. In defence of their discipline, futurists often quote a saying which they attribute to the statesman Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord (1754-1838): when it’s urgent, it’s already too late.

The fourth attitude towards the future is preactivity: our ability – or lack of – to prepare for changes once they are foreseeable. The word foreseeable is clearly related to forecasting, in other words, an assumption is made about the future which is usually quantified and associated with a confidence index based on an expectation. This involves taking a number of variables and system elements into account against a background of previous structural stability and analysing them and their possible evolutions. The likelihood of these possible evolutions is then calculated. Validation is always uncertain due to the complexity of the systems created by the variables. A common example is the weather forecast: it gives me a probability of rain at a given time. If I am preactive, I take my umbrella or I pile sandbags in front of my doors.

The fifth attitude towards the future is proactivity. In his work on the Battle of Stalingrad – 55 years after the event –, British historian and former officer Antony Beevor criticises the German general Friedrich Paulus (1890-1957) for not, as the military commander, being prepared to confront the threat of encirclement which had been facing him for weeks, particularly by not retaining a strong, mobile, armoured capability. This would have enabled the Sixth Army of the Wehrmacht to defend itself effectively at the crucial moment. But, Beevor adds, that implied a clear assessment of the actual danger [1]. This means that, faced with expected and identified changes (I would say exploratory foresight), or even desired changes, which I will cause or create (I would then say normative foresight), I will take action. Anticipating means both visualising and then acting in advance, in other words, acting before the events or actions occur. That is why we could also say, with Riel Miller, that if the future does not exist in the present, anticipation does. The form the future takes in the present is anticipation [2].

 

2. A threefold problem to comprehend the future

We are all faced with a threefold problem when confronting the future. The first problem is that, in the tradition of Gaston Berger (1896-1960) [3], we are expected to look far ahead but, in reality, the future does not exist as an object of knowledge. Clearly, it does not exist because it is not written and is not determined, as Marx believed or as some collapse theorists today believe.

We are also expected to take a broad view and to reflect systemically. But forecasts only focus on a limited number of variables, even in the era of Big Data. Yet we find ourselves faced with systems which are all complex and interwoven in a tangle of unlikely events. We are all familiar with emergences [4] or sudden occurrences linked to the relationships between participants and factors within the system. When driving my car, I can anticipate a puddle, to avoid aquaplaning, or a patch of ice by telling myself that I must not break. But, in reality, I never know what my reaction will be when I feel my wheels shaking, or how my car, my tyres or the road surface will react. Similarly, I never know what the reaction will be of the drivers in front of me or behind me, or in the other lanes, or of the bird that happens to strike my windscreen at that precise moment. So, I have to deal with the complexity, but I cannot reduce it.

The third problem is that, faced with world systems of such complexity, my own knowledge tools are limited. We are trained in disciplines, epistemologies, knowledge methods, vocabularies, and scientific jargon which do not encourage multidisciplinarity (studying one discipline through several disciplines), interdisciplinarity (transferring methods from one discipline to another) or transdisciplinarity (a demanding approach which moves between, across and beyond disciplines), to echo the distinctions expressed by the Franco-Romanian physicist Basarab Nicolescu in response to the works of Jean Piaget (1896-1980) [5]. Our narrowmindedness and reluctance to open up affect our humility, encourage received ideas, create ambiguity (words do not have the same meanings), prevent the necessary constructive dialogue, and adversely affect collective intelligence.

A key achievement of the French economists and futurists Jacques Lesourne (1928-2020) and Michel Godet was to demonstrate the limits of forecasting, which looks to the past for invariants or relationship models to suggest its permanence or its relatively constant evolution in the future, leading to conditional forecasts: ceteris paribus, all things being equal”. Michel Godet’s major work is entitled The Crisis in Forecasting and the Emergence of the « La Prospective », (Pergamon, 1979). In it, he writes that it was on account of the philosopher Gaston Berger, who was himself nurtured on the reflections of Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) and Maurice Blondel (1861-1949), and numerous Anglo-Saxon sources of inspiration, that the foresight approach developed. This intellectual stance involves taking the past and future into consideration over the long-term, comprehending the entire system in a seamless way, and exploring capabilities and means of action collectively.

Against our cultural, mental, intellectual, scientific, social and political background, this approach is not encouraged. It does, however, move us on from the question “what is going to happen” to the question “what may happen” and, therefore, “what if?”. This is also linked to one of our major preoccupations: the short-, medium-, and long-term impact prior analysis of the decisions we take.

Foresight has developed methods based precisely on the issue of these emergences. In addition to analysing trends and trajectories – which can identify crises such as the global financial crash in 2008 –, it also works with wildcards: major surprises and unexpected, remarkable, and unlikely events, which may have significant impacts if they occur: the 9/11 attacks, the Icelandic volcano in April 2010, the Covid crisis in 2019, the floods in July 2021, and so on.

There is also much talk today of black swan events as a result of the work of Nassim Nicholas Taleb, formerly a trader and now professor of risk engineering at the University of New York. This involves identifying events that are statistically almost impossible – so-called statistical dissonance – but which happen anyway [6].

 

3. Constructing a political agenda for complexity

First of all, we must be sceptical about the retrospective biases highlighted by the economist, psychologist and future Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman and his colleague Amos Tversky, which involve exaggerating, retrospectively, the fact that events could have been anticipated. These biases are linked to the need we all have to make sense of things, including the most random events [7]. When the unpredictable happens, it is intellectually quite easy for us to see it as predictable.

Next, it should be noted that political leaders are faced with the core issues of appropriation, legitimacy, and acceptability – especially budgetary – of a decision taken at the end of a dialogue and negotiation process involving multiple participants. The public will not necessarily be in favour of the government spending significant amounts on understanding problems they cannot yet visualise. Like St. Thomas, if they can’t touch it, they won’t believe it. At the outset, the population is not ready to hear what the politicians have to tell them on the matter, whether it involves a “stop-concrete” strategy or a perishable supply of masks. For experts and elected officials alike, it is no longer enough to make claims. They now have to provide scientific proof, and, above all, avoid denial, as the emotional link can be considerable. The significant role played by the media should also not be overlooked. For a long time, it was thought that a pandemic was an acceptable risk, as in the 1960s with the Hong Kong flu which caused at least a million deaths globally between 1968 and 1970, whereas the sight of Covid-19 victims in intensive care is unbearable and makes us less willing to accept the number of deaths. Remember how, in France, Health Minister Roselyne Bachelot was criticised and accused of squandering public money when she bought health masks and vaccines for swine flu (H1N1 virus) in 2009-2010. At the same time, humans have a great capacity to become accustomed to risk. Think of the nuclear sword of Damocles that was the Cold War, which continued until the early 1990s. We should also question whether this military nuclear risk – the anthropic apocalypse – has disappeared.

We constantly find ourselves needing to agree on the priority of the challenges facing us. Constructing a political agenda for such complexity is by no means clear, and political leaders wonder whether they will be criticised for starting works that may not seem urgent or sufficiently important to merit sustained attention, stakeholder mobilisation, and the resulting budgets.

Finally, governing not only means solving organisational problems, allocating resources and planning actions over time. It also means making things intelligible, as the French historian Pierre Rosanvallon points out [8]. The political world does not appreciate the importance of the educational aspect. In Belgium, politicians no longer go on television to talk to people directly and explain an issue that needs to be addressed. Government communications have disappeared; now, there are only televised addresses from the Head of State, who in this way becomes the last actor to communicate values to the public in this way.

 

Conclusion: uncertainty, responsibility, and anticipation

In May 2020, during the Covid-19 lockdown, the host of Signes des Temps on France-Culture radio, Marc Weitzmann, had the bright idea of recalling the first major debate of the Age of Enlightenment on natural disasters and their consequences for human populations [9], a debate between Voltaire (1694-1778) and Rousseau (1712-1778) about the Lisbon disaster of 1755 [10].

HRP5XD Lisbon Tsunami, 1755 – Woodcut – The Granger – NYC

On 1 November 1755 (All Saints Day), Lisbon was hit by a huge earthquake. Three successive waves between 5 and 15 metres high destroyed the port and the city centre [11], and tens of thousands of inhabitants lost their lives in the earthquake, tsunami and huge fire that followed. When he heard the news, Voltaire was deeply affected and, several weeks later, in view of the gravity of the event, he wrote a famous poem in which his intention was to go beyond mere evocation of the disaster and compassion for the victims.

Come, ye philosophers, who cry, “All’s well,”

And contemplate this ruin of a world.

Behold these shreds and cinders of your race,

This child and mother heaped in common wreck,

These scattered limbs beneath the marble shafts—

A hundred thousand whom the earth devours,

Who, torn and bloody, palpitating yet,

Entombed beneath their hospitable roofs,

In racking torment end their stricken lives.

To those expiring murmurs of distress,

To that appalling spectacle of woe,

Will ye reply: “You do but illustrate

The iron laws that chain the will of God »? [12]

In this “Poem on the Lisbon disaster”, from which these lines are a short excerpt, Voltaire ponders the appropriateness of attributing the event to divine justice, when, according to some so-called optimistic philosophers at the time, everything natural is a gift from God and, therefore, ultimately good and just [13]. Without calling divine power into question, Voltaire counters this concept, rejects the idea of a specific celestial punishment to atone for vices in the Portuguese capital, and instead declares fate responsible for the disaster.

As mentioned by Jean-Paul Deléage, who, in 2005, published in the Écologie et Politique review the letter which Rousseau sent to Voltaire on 18 August 1756, Voltaire went on to propose a new concept of human responsibility. This concept was social and political rather than metaphysical and religious. Thus, in his reply to Voltaire, Rousseau states as follows:

 (…), I believe I have shown that with the exception of death, which is an evil almost solely because of the preparations which one makes preceding it, most of our physical ills are still our own work. Is it not known that the person of each man has become the least part of himself, and that it is almost not worth the trouble of saving it when one has lost all the rest Without departing from your subject of Lisbon, admit, for example, that nature did not construct twenty thousand houses of six to seven stories there, and that if the inhabitants of this great city had been more equally spread out and more lightly lodged, the damage would have been much less, and perhaps of no account. All would have fled at the first disturbance, and the next day they would have been seen twenty leagues from there, as gay as if nothing had happened; but it is necessary to remain, to be obstinate around some hovels, to expose oneself to new quakes, because what one leaves behind is worth more than what one can bring along. How many unfortunate people have perished in this disaster because of one wanting to take his clothes, another his papers, another his money?  Is it not known that the person of each man has become the least part of himself, and that it is almost not worth the trouble of saving it when one has lost all the rest? [14] 

Whereas, for Voltaire, the Lisbon disaster was an accident and an unfortunate combination of circumstances, Rousseau feels that the natural seismic effects were compounded by the actions, urban choices and attitude of the people during the disaster. It is the responsibility of human behaviour that Rousseau highlights. In essence, he believes that, although Lisbon was destroyed, this was linked to the human decision to build a city on the coast and near a fault line. A lack of anticipation, perhaps.

Rousseau returned to these matters in his Confessions, in which he again absolves Providence and maintains that, of all the evils in people’s lives, there was not one to be attributed to Providence, and which had not its source rather in the abusive use man made of his faculties than in nature [15].

In the appropriately named Signes des Temps, or Sign of the Times, programme, Marc Weitzmann established a link between this debate, the question of uncertainty, nature and mankind, and the thoughts of French urbanist Paul Virilio (1932-2018). Scarred by the blitzkrieg and his lost childhood, and the idea that acceleration prevents anticipation and can lead to coincidence, Virilio, author of Speed and Politics (MIT Press, 2006), The Original Accidentl (Polity Press, 2007), and The Great Accelerator (Polity Press, 2012), emphasised that industrial and natural disasters progressed not only geometrically but also geographically, if not cosmically. In his view, this progress of contemporary coincidence requires a new intelligence in which the principle of responsibility permanently supplants the principle of technoscientific effectiveness, which is, considers Virilio, arrogant to the point of delusion [16].

Thus, as in Rousseau, our natural disasters seem increasingly inseparable from our anthropic disasters. All the more so since, as we now know, we have through our human and industrial actions altered the course of time in all its meanings: climate time, as well as speed time, or acceleration.

The fine metaphor used by futurists on the need to have good headlights at night – the faster we travel, the brighter they need to be – seems somewhat outdated. While, today, we are collectively wondering whether the road still exists, we can still enjoy inventing, plotting, and carving out a new path. For, in the words of Gaston Berger, the future is not only what may happen or what is most likely to happen, but is also, and increasingly so, what we want it to be. Predicting a disaster is conditional: it involves predicting what would happen if we did nothing to change the situation rather than what will happen in any event [17].

Risk management will remain a fundamental necessity on the path we choose. What is more, any initiative involves a degree of uncertainty which we can only ever partially reduce. This uncertainty will never absolve our individual and collective responsibilities as elected representatives or citizens. This uncertainty, in turn, creates a duty of anticipation [18].

Anticipation culture must feature at the heart of our public and collective policies. To that end, we must employ foresight methods that are genuinely robust and operational, along with impact prior analyses for the actions to be taken. That is the only way to tackle a new future without false impressions.

In his conclusions of The Imperative of Responsability, Hans Jonas decreed that, facing the threat of nuclear war, ecological ravage, genetic engineering, and the like, fear was a requirement for tackling the future [19]. We must treat anticipation in the same way. Thus anticipation meets hope, each being a consequence of the other.

 

 

Philippe Destatte

@PhD2050

Related paper: Increasing rationality in decision-making through policy impact prior analysis (July 12, 2021)

 

Direct access to PhD2050’s English papers

 

[1] Free translation from: Antony BEEVOR, Stalingrad, p. 231-232 et 252 , Paris, de Fallois, 1999.

[2] Riel MILLER, Futures Literacy: transforming the future, in R. MILLER ed., Transforming the Future, Anticipation in the 21st Century, p. 2, Paris, UNESCO – Abingdon, Routledge, 2018.

[3] Gaston BERGER, L’attitude prospective, dans Phénoménologie et prospective, p. 270sv, Paris, PUF, 1964.

[4] According to the systemist Edgar Morin, emergence is an organizational product which, although inseparable from the system as a whole, appears not only at the global level, but possibly at the level of the components. Emergence is a new quality in relation to the constituents of the system. It therefore has the virtue of an event, since it arises in a discontinuous manner once the system has been constituted; it has of course the character of irreducibility; it is a quality which cannot be broken down, and which cannot be deduced from previous elements. E. MORIN, La méthode, t.1, p. 108, Paris, Seuil, 1977. – The concept of emergence finds its origin in George Henry Lewes. To urge that we do not know how theses manifold conditions emerge in the phenomenon Feeling, it is to say that the synthetic fact has not been analytically resolved into all its factor. It is equally true that we do not know how Water emerges from Oxygen and Hydrogen. The fact of an emergence we know; and we may be certain that what emerges is the expression of its conditions, – every effect being the procession of its cause. George Henry LEWES, Problems of Life and Mind, t. 2, p. 412, London, Trübner & Co, 1874. – André LALANDE, Vocabulaire technique et critique de la philosophie, p. 276-277, Paris, PUF, 1976.

[5] See: Transdisciplinarité in Ph. DESTATTE & Philippe DURANCE dir., Les mots-clés de la prospective territoriale, p. 51, Paris, La Documentation française, 2009. http://www.institut-destree.eu/wa_files/philippe-destatte_philippe-durance_mots-cles_prospective_documentation-francaise_2008.pdf

[6] Nassim Nicholas TALEB, The Black Swan, The Impact of the Highly Improbable, New York, Random House, 2007.

[7] Daniel KAHNEMAN & Amos TVERSKY, Prospect theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk, in Econometrica, Journal of the econometric society, 1979, vol. 47, nr 2, p. 263-291. https://www.jstor.org/stable/1914185?seq=1

[8] Pierre ROSANVALLON, Counter-Democracy, Politics in an Age of Distrust, Cambridge University Press,  2008.

[9] Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Lettre à Monsieur de Voltaire sur ses deux poèmes sur « la Loi naturelle » et sur « le Désastre de Lisbonne », présentée par Jean-Paul DELEAGE, dans Écologie & politique, 2005, 30, p. 141-154.

https://www.cairn.info/revue-ecologie-et-politique1-2005-1-page-141.htm

[10] Cfr Marc Weitzmann, Le Cygne noir, une énigme de notre temps, ou la prévision prise en défaut, avec Cynthia Fleury, Bruno Tertrais et Erwan Queinnec, Signes des Temps, France Culture, https://www.franceculture.fr/emissions/signes-des-temps/le-cygne-noir-une-enigme-de-notre-temps-ou-la-prevision-prise-en-defaut

[11] Sofiane BOUHDIBA, Lisbonne, le 1er novembre 1755 : un hasard ? Au cœur de la polémique entre Voltaire et Rousseau, A travers champs, 19 octobre 2014. S. Bouhdiba est démographe à l’Université de Tunis. https://presquepartout.hypotheses.org/1023 – Jean-Paul POIRIER, Le tremblement de terre de Lisbonne, Paris, Odile Jacob, 2005.

[12] Translation taken from the Online Library of Liberty, https://oll.libertyfund.org/quote/voltaire-laments-the-destruction-of-lisbon-in-an-earthquake-and-criticises-the-philosophers-who-thought-that-all-s-well-with-the-world-and-the-religious-who-thought-it-was-god-s-will-1755.

VOLTAIRE, Poème sur le désastre de Lisbonne (1756), Œuvres complètes, Paris, Garnier, t. 9, p. 475. Wikisources : https://fr.wikisource.org/wiki/Page:Voltaire_-_%C5%92uvres_compl%C3%A8tes_Garnier_tome9.djvu/485

[13] We are talking about theodicy here. This consists in the justification of the goodness of God by the refutation of the arguments drawn from the existence. This concept was introduced by the German philosopher and mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibnitz (1646-1716) in an attempt to reconcile the apparent contradiction between, on the one hand, the misfortunes that prevail on earth and, on the other hand, the power and the goodness of God. LEIBNITZ, Essais de théodicée sur la bonté de Dieu, la liberté de l’Homme et l’origine du mal, Amsterdam, F. Changuion, 1710. – See Patrick SHERRY, Theodicy in Encyclopedia Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/topic/theodicy-theology. Accessed 28 August 2021.

We know that in his tale Candide, or Optimism, published in 1759, Voltaire will deform and mock Leibnitzian thought through the caricatural character of Pangloss and the formula everything is at best in the best of all possible worlds … VOLTAIRE, Candide ou l’Optimisme, in VOLTAIRE, Romans et contes, Edition établie par Frédéric Deloffre et Jacques Van den Heuvel, p. 145-233, Paris, Gallimard, 1979.

[14] Translation from Internet Archive, Letter to Voltaire, Pl, IV, 1060-1062, p. 51.

 https://archive.org/details/RousseauToVoltairet.marshall/page/n1/mode/2up?q=lisbon,

Lettre à Monsieur de Voltaire sur ses deux poèmes sur la « Loi naturelle » et sur « Le Désastre de Lisbonne », 18 août 1756. in Jean-Paul DELEAGE, op. cit.

[15] J.-J. ROUSSEAU, Confessions, IX, Paris, 1767, cité par Sofiane BOUHDIBA, op. cit.

[16] Paul VIRILIO, L’accident originel, p. 3, Paris, Galilée, 2005.

[17] G. BERGER, Phénoménologie et prospective…, p. 275. (Free translation).

[18] Voir à ce sujet Pierre LASCOUMES, La précaution comme anticipation des risques résiduels et hybridation de la responsabilité, dans L’année sociologique, Paris, PUF, 1996, 46, n°2, p. 359-382.

[19] Hans JONAS, The Imperative of Responsability, In Search of an Ethics for the Technological Age, The University of Chicago Press, 1984.

Liège, le 28 février 2018

1. Qu’est-ce que la prospective, en quoi est-elle stratégique ?

Telle que nous la connaissons aujourd’hui en Europe, la prospective constitue une rencontre entre des dynamiques françaises et latines, d’une part, anglo-saxonnes, de l’autre. Les évolutions entre ces deux sources apparaissent croisées. Ainsi, le foresight a-t-il évolué au fil du temps, de préoccupations militaires (améliorer les systèmes de défense) vers des objectifs industriels (accroître la compétitivité) et les questions sociétales (assurer le bien-être de la population, mettre le système en harmonie). Depuis les années 1960 jusqu’à nos jours, ses sujets de prédilection sont passés des sciences de base aux technologies-clefs, puis à l’analyse des systèmes d’innovation, enfin à l’étude du système sociétal dans sa totalité. De disciplinaire, orienté vers les sciences dites exactes, le foresight est devenu pluri, multi, et interdisciplinaire, ouvert aux sciences sociales [1]. Ainsi, s’est-il rapproché considérablement de la prospective, abandonnant une bonne partie des ambitions prévisionnistes héritées du forecasting pour devenir davantage stratégique.

La prospective française trouve notamment son origine dans la pensée du philosophe et entrepreneur Gaston Berger. Née d’une philosophie de l’action collective et de l’engagement, elle travaille les systèmes de valeurs et construit de la connaissance en vue du projet politique [2], s’affirmant elle aussi de plus en plus stratégique au contact des mondes des organisations internationales, des entreprises et de celui des territoires [3]. Prenant en compte le long terme et la longue durée, en postulant la pluralité des futurs possibles, faisant sienne l’analyse des systèmes complexes ainsi que mobilisant la théorie et la pratique de la modélisation, la prospective construit du désir et de la volonté stratégique pour mettre en mouvement et agir sur l’histoire. Ainsi que j’ai contribué à la définir dans des cadres européens (Mutual Learning Platform des DG Research, DG Enterprises & Industry, et DG Regio, appuyés par le Comité des Régions) [4], français (Collège européen de Prospective territoriale, créé dans le cadre de la DATAR à Paris) [5] ou wallon (Société wallonne de l’Evaluation et de la Prospective) [6], la prospective est une démarche indépendante, dialectique et rigoureuse, menée de manière transdisciplinaire en s’appuyant sur la longue durée. La prospective peut éclairer les questions du présent et de l’avenir, d’une part en les considérant dans leur cadre holistique, systémique et complexe et, d’autre part, en les inscrivant, au delà de l’historicité, dans la temporalité. Résolument tournée vers le projet et vers l’action, elle a vocation à provoquer une ou plusieurs transformations au sein du système qu’elle appréhende en mobilisant l’intelligence collective [7]. Cette définition, qui existe également en anglais, est celle à la fois de la prospective et du foresight. Elle a, en tout cas, été conçue comme telle, dans le cadre d’un véritable effort de convergence entre ces deux outils, porté notamment par l’équipe de l’Unité K2 de la DG RTD de la Commission européenne, alors dirigée par Paraskevas Caracostas.

Ce qui distingue fondamentalement la stratégie du processus de la prospective ou du foresight – certains disent prospective stratégique ou strategic foresight, ce qui constitue à mes yeux des pléonasmes -, c’est le fait que, dans la prospective, la stratégie qu’elle élabore n’est pas linéaire par rapport au diagnostic ou aux enjeux. Fondamentalement, la prospective s’arrime à la fois à des enjeux de long terme auxquels elle veut répondre et à une vision de l’avenir souhaitable, qu’elle a construite avec les acteurs concernés. Son processus, circulaire, mobilise à chaque étape l’intelligence collective et collaborative, pour donner réalité à une action désirée et co-construite, inscrite dans le long terme et se voulant efficiente et opérationnelle. La veille prospective s’active à chacune des étapes de ce processus. Je la définis comme une activité continue et en grande partie itérative d’observation active et d’analyse systémique de l’environnement, sur les court, moyen et long termes, pour anticiper les évolutions, identifier les enjeux du présent et de l’avenir, afin de construire des visions collectives et des stratégies d’actions. Elle s’articule à la création et à la gestion de la connaissance nécessaire pour nourrir le processus prospectif lui-même. Ce processus s’étend à partir du choix des chantiers d’opération (enjeux de long terme) et de la nécessaire heuristique, jusqu’à la communication et l’évaluation, en passant par l’analyse et la capitalisation des informations et leur transformation en connaissance utile [8].

2. La prospective à côté de l’intelligence stratégique

Le Groupe de Recherche en Intelligence stratégique (GRIS), ancré à HEC Liège, sous la direction de la professeure Claire Gruslin, voit l’intelligence stratégique comme un mode de gouvernance basé sur la maîtrise et la protection de l’information stratégique et pertinente, sur le potentiel d’influence, indispensable à tous les acteurs économiques soucieux de participer proactivement au développement et à l’innovation, en construisant un avantage distinctif durable dans un environnement hyper compétitif et turbulent [9].

De son côté, le célèbre Rapport Martre, daté de 1994, ouvrait, dans sa définition de l’intelligence économique, le champ d’un processus assez semblable de celui que j’ai évoqué pour la prospective, intégrant lui aussi la veille, l’heuristique, le questionnement des problématiques, la vision partagée, ainsi que la stratégie pour l’atteindre, articulés dans un cycle ininterrompu :

L’intelligence économique peut être définie comme l’ensemble des actions coordonnées de recherche, de traitement et de distribution en vue de son exploitation, de l’information utile aux acteurs économiques. Ces diverses actions sont menées légalement avec toutes les garanties de protection nécessaires à la préservation du patrimoine de l’entreprise, dans les meilleures conditions de qualité, de délais et de coût. L’information utile est celle dont ont besoin les différents niveaux de décision de l’entreprise ou de la collectivité, pour élaborer et mettre en œuvre de façon cohérente la stratégie et les tactiques nécessaires à l’atteinte des objectifs définis par l’entreprise dans le but d’améliorer sa position dans son environnement concurrentiel. Ces actions, au sein de l’entreprise, s’ordonnent en un cycle ininterrompu, générateur d’une vision partagée des objectifs à atteindre [10].

Ce qui est particulièrement intéressant dans la recherche de parallélismes ou de convergences entre intelligence économique et prospective, c’est l’idée, développée par Henri Martre, Philippe Clerc et Christian Harbulot que la notion d’intelligence économique dépasse la documentation, la veille, la protection des données, voire l’influence, pour s’inscrire dans une véritable intention stratégique et tactique, porteuse d’actions aux différents niveaux de l’activité, de la base de l’entreprise au niveau global, international [11].

 3. La prospective dans l’intelligence stratégique

Au tournant des années 2000, dans le cadre du programme européen ESTO (European Science and Technology Observatory), l’Institut d’Etudes en Prospective technologique (IPTS) de Séville avait rassemblé une série de chercheurs autour de l’idée d’intelligence stratégique comme réceptacle ou chapeau méthodologique orienté vers les politiques publiques. Cette démarche visait à reconnaître et prendre en compte la diversité de l’ensemble des méthodes mises à la disposition des décideurs, afin de les articuler et de les mobiliser au profit de la réussite des politiques publiques [12]. Comme l’indiquait alors un des animateurs de cette réflexion, Ken Ducatel, le concept d’intelligence stratégique n’offre pas seulement une force méthodologique pour répondre aux enjeux (de l’UE) mais dispose aussi de suffisamment de flexibilité pour se connecter à d’autres formes d’interactions, s’adapter à de nouveaux modèles de gouvernance et s’ouvrir à des changements technologiques et des évolutions sociales qui sont plus rapides que nous n’en n’avons jamais connus [13].

Lors du projet REGSTRAT, notamment porté en 2006 par Steinbeis Europa Zentrum à Stuttgart, la notion de Strategic Policy Intelligence Tools (SPI) – les outils d’intelligence appliqués aux politiques publiques – s’était imposée, notamment aux représentants de la Mutual Learning Platform, déjà évoquée. Comme nous l’indiquions avec mon collègue prospectiviste Günter Clar dans le rapport dédié au foresight, l’intelligence stratégique appliquée aux politiques publiques peut être définie comme un ensemble d’actions destinées à rechercher, mettre en œuvre, diffuser et protéger l’information en vue de la rendre disponible à la bonne personne, au moment adéquat, avec l’objectif de prendre la bonne décision. Ainsi que cela était clairement apparu lors des travaux, les outils du SPI comprennent la prospective, l’évaluation des choix technologiques, l’évaluation, le benchmarking, les démarches de qualité appliquées au territoire, etc. Ces outils sont utilisés pour fournir aux décideurs et aux parties prenantes une information claire, objective, non biaisée politiquement, indépendante et, le plus important, anticipatrice [14].

Ces travaux ont aussi permis de caractériser l’intelligence stratégique telle qu’observée dans ce contexte. Le contenu y apparaît taillé sur mesure, avec des côtés hard et soft, avec également un caractère distribué, sous-tendu par des effets d’échelle, la facilitation de l’apprentissage, un équilibre entre approches spécifique et générique, ainsi qu’une accessibilité accrue. Son processus s’articule sur la demande, la nécessité de la mobilisation de la créativité, une explicitation de la connaissance tacite, l’évaluation du potentiel technologique, une facilitation du processus, ainsi que le lien optimal avec la prise de décision [15].

Dans cette perspective, la prospective apparaît bien comme un outil, parmi d’autres, de l’intelligence stratégique, au service des décideurs et des parties prenantes.

4. Anticipation, innovation, décision

La direction générale de la Recherche et de l’Innovation de la Commission européenne s’investit depuis plusieurs années, dans les Forward Looking Activities (FLAs), les activités à vocation prospective [16], comme jadis – nous l’avons vu – l’Institut européen de Séville l’avait fait en développant, les outils d’intelligence stratégique [17] en politiques publiques (Strategic Policy Intelligence – SPI) [18]. Les FLA’s comprennent toutes les études et tous les processus systématiques et participatifs destinés à envisager les futurs possibles, de manière proactive et stratégique, ainsi qu’à examiner et tracer des chemins vers des objectifs souhaitables [19]. On retrouve évidemment dans ce champ un grand nombre de méthodes d’anticipation, d’évaluation des choix technologiques, d’évaluation ex ante, etc.

En 2001, Ruud Smits, préconisait trois axes qu’il considérait comme essentiels. D’abord, soulignait-il, il s’agit d’arrêter le débat sur les définitions et d’exploiter les synergies entre les différentes branches de l’intelligence stratégique. Ensuite, notait le professeur de Technologie et d’Innovation à l’Université d’Utrecht, il est nécessaire d’améliorer la qualité et de renforcer les sources existantes de l’intelligence stratégique. Enfin, Ruud Smits demandait que l’on développe une interface entre les sources de l’intelligence stratégique et leurs usagers [20]. Ce programme reste à mettre en œuvre et nous pourrions considérer que notre réflexion au GRIS s’inscrit dans cette ambition.

Cette approche cognitive nous renvoie sans nul doute à la distinction que prône le psychologue et Prix Nobel d’Economie Daniel Kahneman lorsqu’il met en évidence, d’une part, un Système cérébral n°1, qu’il voit comme automatique, direct, impulsif, quotidien, rapide, intuitif, sans effort réel, et que nous mobilisons dans 95% des circonstances. D’autre part, l’auteur de Thinking fast and slow, décrit un second système cérébral qui est à la fois conscient, rationnel, délibératif, lent, analytique, logique, celui que nous ne mobilisons que dans 5% des cas, notamment pour prendre des décisions quand nous nous mouvons dans des systèmes que nous appréhendons comme complexes [21]. C’est à ce moment, en effet, que nous devons faire l’effort de mobiliser des outils à la mesure des tâches dont nous nous saisissons.

Cette question affecte bien tous les outils d’intelligence stratégique, y compris la prospective. Non seulement parce que les investissements à fournir pour ces champs de recherche sont considérables, mais aussi parce que, souvent, beaucoup d’entre nous ne sont pas conscients de l’étendue de ce que nous ne pouvons saisir. Trop souvent en effet nous pensons que ce que nous voyons est ce qui existe. Nous nous limitons aux variables que nous pouvons détecter, embrasser, mesurer. Avec une capacité considérable de refuser de reconnaître les autres variables. Ce syndrome du WYSIATI (What you see is all there is) est, nous le savons dévastateur. Car il nous empêche de saisir la réalité dans toute son ampleur en nous laissant penser que nous maîtrisons l’espace et l’horizon. On ne peut pas s’empêcher de faire avec l’information qu’on a comme si on disposait de tout ce qu’on doit savoir, dit Kahneman [22].

Cette faille – il en est d’autres – doit nous inciter à unir nos forces pour surmonter les chapelles méthodologiques et épistémologiques et travailler à fonder des instruments plus robustes au service de politiques publiques plus volontaristes et mieux armées.

Philippe Destatte

@PhD2050

 

[1] Paraskevas CARACOSTAS & Ugar MULDUR, Society, The Endless Frontier, A European Vision of Research and Innovation Policies for the 21st Century, Brussels, European Commission, 1997. – Une première mouture de ce papier a été présentée lors du colloque du Groupe de REcherche en Intelligence stratégique (GRIS) à HEC Liège, le 28 septembre 2016.

[2] (…) en appliquant les principes de l’analyse intentionnelle, propre à la phénoménologie, à l’expérience du temps, Gaston Berger substitue au «mythe du temps» une norme temporelle, construction intersubjective pour l’action collective. Sa philosophie de la connaissance se constitue ainsi comme une science de la pratique prospective dont la finalité́ est normative : elle est orientée vers le travail des valeurs et la construction d’un projet politique ; elle est une «philosophie en action ». Chloë VIDAL, La prospective territoriale dans tous ses états, Rationalités, savoirs et pratiques de la prospective (1957-2014), p. 31, Lyon, Thèse ENS, 2015.

[3] Sur la prospective territoriale, rencontre entre les principes de la prospective et ceux du développement territorial, voir la référence au colloque international de la DATAR en mars 1968. Chloë VIDAL, La prospective territoriale dans tous ses états, Rationalités, savoirs et pratiques de la prospective (1957-2014), p. 214-215, Lyon, ENS, 2015.

[4] Günter CLAR & Philippe DESTATTE, Regional Foresight, Boosting Regional Potential, Mutual Learning Platform Regional Foresight Report, Luxembourg, European Commission, Committee of the Regions and Innovative Regions in Europe Network, 2006.

http://www.institut-destree.eu/Documents/Reseaux/Günter-CLAR_Philippe-DESTATTE_Boosting-Regional-Potential_MLP-Foresight-2006.pdf

[5] Ph. DESTATTE & Ph. DURANCE dir., Les mots-clefs de la prospective territoriale, p. 43, Paris, DIACT-DATAR, La Documentation française, 2009.

[6] Ph. DESTATTE, Evaluation, prospective et développement régional, p. 381, Charleroi, Institut Destrée, 2001.

[7] Philippe DESTATTE, Qu’est-ce que la prospective ?, Blog PhD2050, 10 avril 2013.

Qu’est-ce que la prospective ?

[8] René-Charles TISSEYRE, Knowledge Management, Théorie et pratique de la gestion des connaissances, Paris, Hermès-Lavoisier, 1999.

[9] Guy GOERMANNE, Note de réflexion, Tentatives de rapprochement entre la prospective et l’intelligence stratégique en Wallonie, p. 7, Bruxelles, Août 2016, 64 p.

[10] Henri MARTRE, Philippe CLERC, Christian HARBULOT, Intelligence économique et stratégie des entreprises, p. 12-13, Paris, Commissariat général au Plan – La Documentation française, Février 1994. http://bdc.aege.fr/public/Intelligence_Economique_et_strategie_des_entreprises_1994.pdf

[11] La notion d’intelligence économique implique le dépassement des actions partielles désignées par les vocables de documentation, de veille (scientifique et technologique, concurrentielle, financière, juridique et réglementaire…), de protection du patrimoine concurrentiel, d’influence (stratégie d’influence des États-nations, rôle des cabinets de consultants étrangers, opérations d’information et de désinformation…). Ce dépassement résulte de l’intention stratégique et tactique, qui doit présider au pilotage des actions partielles et su succès des actions concernées, ainsi que de l’interaction entre tous les niveaux de l’activité, auxquels s’exerce la fonction d’intelligence économique : depuis la base (internes à l’entreprise) en passant par des niveaux intermédiaires (interprofessionnels, locaux) jusqu’aux niveaux nationaux (stratégies concertées entre les différents centres de décision), transnationaux (groupes multinationaux) ou internationaux (stratégies d’influence des États-nations). H. MARTRE, Ph. CLERC, Ch. HARBULOT, Intelligence économique et stratégie des entreprises…, p. 12-13.

[12] L’intelligence stratégique peut-être définie comme un ensemble d’actions destinées à rechercher, mettre en œuvre, diffuser et protéger l’information en vue de la rendre disponible à la bonne personne, au moment adéquat avec l’objectif de prendre la bonne décision. (…) L’intelligence stratégique appliquée aux politiques publiques offre une variété de méthodologies afin de rencontrer les demandes des décideurs politiques. Derived from Daniel ROUACH, La veille technologique et l’intelligence économique, Paris, PUF, 1996, p. 7 & Intelligence économique et stratégie d’entreprises, Paris, Commissariat général au Plan, 1994. – Alexander TÜBKE, Ken DUCATEL, James P. GAVIGAN, Pietro MONCADA-PATERNO-CASTELLO éd., Strategic Policy Intelligence: Current Trends, the State of the Play and perspectives, S&T Intelligence for Policy-Making Processes, p. V & VII, IPTS, Seville, Dec. 2001.

[13] Ibidem, p. IV.

[14] Günter CLAR & Ph. DESTATTE, Mutual Learning Platform Regional Foresight Report, p. 4, Luxembourg, IRE, EC-CoR, 2006.

[15] Ruud SMITS, The New Role of Strategic Intelligence, in A. TÜBKE, K. DUCATEL, J. P. GAVIGAN, P. MONCADA-PATERNO-CASTELLO éd., Strategic Policy Intelligence: Current Trends, p. 17.

[16] Domenico ROSSETTI di VALDALBERO & Parla SROUR-GANDON, European Forward Looking Activities, EU Research in Foresight and Forecast, Socio-Economic Sciences & Humanities, List of Activities, Brussels, European Commission, DGR, Directorate L, Science, Economy & Society, 2010. http://ec.europa.eu/research/social-sciences/forward-looking_en.htmlEuropean forward-looking activities, Building the future of « Innovation Union » and ERA, Brussels, European Commission, Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, 2011. ftp://ftp.cordis.europa.eu/pub/fp7/ssh/docs/european-forward-looking-activities_en.pdf

[17] Strategic Intelligence is all about feeding actors (including policy makers) with the tailor made information they need to play their role in innovation systems (content) and with bringing the together to interact (amongst others to create common ground). Ruud SMITS, Technology Assessment and Innovation Policy, Séville, 5 Dec. 2002. ppt.

[18] A. TÜBKE, K. DUCATEL, J. P. GAVIGAN, P. MONCADA-PATERNO-CASTELLO éd., Strategic Policy Intelligence: Current Trends, …

[19] Innovation Union Information and Intelligence System I3S – EC 09/06/2011.

[20] R. SMITS, The New Role of Strategic Intelligence…, p. 17. – voir aussi R. SMITS & Stefan KUHLMANN, Strenghtening interfaces in innovation systems: rationale, concepts and (new) instruments, Strata Consolidating Workshop, Brussels, 22-23 April 2002, RTD-K2, June 2002. – R. SMITS, Stefan KUHLMANN and Philip SHAPIRA eds., The Theory and Practice of Innovation Policy, An International Research Handbook, Cheltenham UK, Northampton MA USA, Edward Elgar, 2010.

[21] Daniel KAHNEMAN, Thinking fast and slow, p. 201, New York, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011.

[22] You cannot help dealing with limited information you have as it were all there is to know. D. KAHNEMAN, Thinking fast and slow…, p. 201.

Liège, January 19, 2018

1. What is foresight, and in what way is it strategic? [1]

 In the form in which we know it today in Europe, foresight represents an encounter and interaction between French and Latin developments, on the one hand, and those in the Anglosphere on the other. In English-speaking countries, the practice of foresight has evolved over time from a concern with military interests (such as improving defence systems) to industrial objectives (such as increasing competitiveness) and societal issues (such as ensuring the welfare of the population or ensuring social harmony). Since the 1960s, its chosen field has shifted from fundamental science to key technologies, then to the analysis of innovation systems, and finally to the study of the entire societal system. Having started out within a single discipline, namely the exact sciences, foresight has become pluridisciplinary, multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary, with an openness to the social sciences [2]. In doing so, it has moved considerably closer to the French approach, abandoning many of its earlier forecasting ambitions for a more strategic focus.

The French school of foresight (referred to as la prospective) originates in the thought of the philosopher and entrepreneur Gaston Berger. Deriving from a philosophy of collective action and engagement, it deals with value systems and constructs knowledge for political purposes [3], and has likewise become increasingly strategic in nature through contact with the worlds of international organisations, companies and regional territories [4]. Taking account of the long-term and la longue durée by postulating the plurality of possible futures, adopting the analysis of complex systems and deploying the theory and practice of modelling, foresight generates a strategic desire and willingness in order to influence and affect history. As I have helped to define it in various contexts – European (the Mutual Learning Platform of DG Research, DG Enterprise & Industry, and DG Regional & Urban Policy, supported by the Committee of the Regions) [5], French (the European Regional Foresight College) created under the auspices of the Interministerial Delegation of Land Planning and Regional Attractiveness (DATAR) in Paris) [6] or in Wallonia (the Wallonia Evaluation and Foresight Society) [7] – foresight is an independent, dialectical and rigorous process, conducted in a transdisciplinary way and taking in the longer sweep of history. It can shed light on questions of the present and the future, firstly by considering them in a holistic, systemic and complex framework, and secondly by setting them in a temporal context over and beyond historicity. Concerned above all with planning and action, its purpose is to provoke one or more transformations within the system that it apprehends by mobilising collective intelligence [8]. This definition is that of both la prospective and foresight; at any rate it was designed as such, as part of a serious effort to bring about convergence between these two tools undertaken by, in particular, the team of Unit K2 of DG Research and Innovation at the European Commission, led at the time by Paraskevas Caracostas.

The main distinguishing characteristic of the strategy behind the process of la prospective or foresight – some refer to la prospective stratégique or strategic foresight, which to my mind are pleonasms – is that it does not have a linear relationship with the diagnosis or the issues. Fundamentally, this tool reflects both the long-term issues it seeks to address and a vision of a desirable future that it has constructed with the actors concerned. Its circular process mobilises collective and collaborative intelligence at every step in order to bring about in reality a desired and jointly constructed action that operates over the long term and is intended to be efficient and operational. Foresight watch takes place at every step of this process. I define this as a continuous and largely iterative activity of active observation and systemic analysis of the environment, in the short, medium and long term, to anticipate developments and identify present and future issues with the ultimate purpose of forming collective visions and action strategies. It is based on creating and managing the knowledge needed as input into the process of foresight itself. This process extends from the choice of areas to work on (long-term issues) and of the necessary heuristic, via the analysis and capitalisation of information and its transformation into useful knowledge, to communication and evaluation [9].

2. Foresight and strategic intelligence

The Strategic Intelligence Research Group (GRIS) at HEC Liège, under the direction of Professor Claire Gruslin, sees strategic intelligence as ‘a mode of governance based on the acquisition and protection of strategic and relevant information and on the potential for influence, which is essential for all economic actors wishing to participate proactively in development and innovation by building a distinctive and lasting advantage in a highly competitive and turbulent environment[10].

For its part, the famous Martre Report of 1994, in its definition of economic intelligence, delineated a process fairly similar to that which I mentioned for foresight, likewise including monitoring, heuristics, the examination of issues, a shared vision and the strategy to achieve it, all set in a ‘continuous cycle’:

Economic intelligence can be defined as the set of coordinated actions by which information that is useful to economic actors is sought out, processed and distributed for exploitation. These various actions are carried out legally and benefit from the protection necessary to preserve the company’s assets, under optimal quality, time and cost conditions. Useful information is that needed by the different decision-making levels in the company or the community in order to develop and implement in a coherent manner the strategy and tactics necessary to achieve its objectives, with the goal of improving its position in its competitive context. These actions within the company are organised in a continuous cycle, generating a shared vision of the objectives to be achieved[11].

What is of particular interest in the search for parallels or convergences between economic intelligence and foresight is the idea, developed by Henri Martre, Philippe Clerc and Christian Harbulot, that the notion of economic intelligence goes beyond documentation, monitoring, data protection or even influence, to become part of ‘a true strategic and tactical intention’, supporting actions at different levels, from the company up to the global, international level[12].

 3. Foresight in strategic intelligence

At the turn of the millennium, as part of the European ESTO (European Science and Technology Observatory) programme, the Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS) in Seville gathered a series of researchers to examine the idea of ​​strategic intelligence as a methodological vehicle or umbrella for public policy-making. The idea was to recognise and take account of the diversity of methods made available to decision-makers in order to structure and mobilise them to ensure successful policy-making [13]. As Ken Ducatel, one of the coordinators of this discussion, put it, ‘The concept of strategic intelligence not only offers a powerful methodology for addressing (EU) issues, but has the flexibility to connect to other forms of interaction, adapt to new models of governance and open up to technological changes and social developments that are faster than we have ever known before[14].

At the time of the REGSTRAT project coordinated by the Stuttgart-based Steinbeis Europa Zentrum in 2006, the concept of Strategic Policy Intelligence (SPI) tools – i.e. intelligence tools applied to public policy – had become accepted, in particular among the representatives of the Mutual Learning Platform referred to earlier. As my fellow foresight specialist Günter Clar and I pointed out in the report on the subject of foresight, strategic intelligence as applied to public policy can be defined as a set of actions designed to identify, implement, disseminate and protect information in order to make it available to the right person, at the right time, with the goal of making the right decision. As had become clear during the work, SPI’s tools include foresight, evaluation of technological choices, evaluation, benchmarking, quality procedures applied to territories, and so on. These tools are used to provide decision-makers and stakeholders with clear, objective, politically unbiased, independent and, most importantly, anticipatory information [15].

This work also made it possible to define strategic intelligence as observed in this context. Its content is adapted to the context, with hard and soft sides and a distributed character, underpinned by scale effects, the facilitation of learning, a balance between specific and generic approaches and increased accessibility. Its process is based on demand, the need to mobilise creativity, making tacit knowledge explicit, the evaluation of technological potential, a facilitation of the process and an optimal link with decision-making [16].

From this viewpoint, foresight is clearly one of the tools of strategic intelligence for the use of policy-makers and stakeholders.

 Anticipation, innovation and decision-making

The Directorate General for Research and Innovation of the European Commission has been involved for some years in forward-looking activities (FLAs) [17], just as the European Institute in Seville had been – as we saw – when it developed strategic policy intelligence (SPI) [18] tools for use in public policy-making[19]. FLAs include all systematic and participatory studies and processes designed to consider possible futures, proactively and strategically, and to explore and map out paths towards desirable goals [20]. This field obviously includes numerous different methods for anticipation of future developments, evaluation of technological choices, ex-ante evaluation, and so on.

In 2001, Ruud Smits, Professor of Technology and Innovation at the University of Utrecht, made three recommendations that he regarded as essential. First, he stressed, it was time to call a halt to the debate about definitions and to exploit the synergies between the different branches of strategic intelligence. Next, he noted the need to improve the quality of strategic intelligence and reinforce its existing sources. Finally, Smits called for the development of an interface between strategic intelligence sources and their users[21]. This programme has yet to be implemented, and our work at GRIS could be seen as reflecting this ambition.

This cognitive approach without a doubt brings us back to the distinction put forward by psychologist and Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman, who refers in his book Thinking fast and slow to two cerebral systems. He describes System 1 as automatic, direct, impulsive, everyday, fast, intuitive, and involving no real effort; we use it in 95% of circumstances. System 2, by contrast, is conscious, rational, deliberative, slow, analytical and logical; we only use it 5% of the time, especially to make decisions when we find ourselves in systems that we consider complex[22]. It is at such times that we have to make the effort to mobilise tools suited to the tasks we are tackling.

This question concerns all strategic intelligence tools, including foresight. Not just because the investments to be made in these fields of research are considerable, but because, often, many of us are unaware of the extent of that which we are unable to understand. All too commonly, we think that what we can see represents the full extent of what exists. We confine ourselves to the variables that we are able to detect, embrace and measure, and have a considerable capacity to refuse to recognise other variables. We know that this syndrome of WYSIATI (‘what you see is all there is’) is devastating: it prevents us from grasping reality in its entirety by making us think that we are in full command of the territory around us and the horizon. As Kahneman puts it, ‘You cannot help dealing with limited information you have as if it were all there is to know[23].

This flaw – and there are others – should encourage us to join forces to cross methodological and epistemological boundaries and work to create more robust instruments that can be used to design more proactive and better-equipped public policies.

 

Philippe Destatte

@PhD2050

 

[1] A first version of this paper was presented at the Liège Business School on September 28, 2016.

[2] Paraskevas CARACOSTAS & Ugar MULDUR, Society, The Endless Frontier, A European Vision of Research and Innovation Policies for the 21st Century, Brussels, European Commission, 1997.

[3] ‘(…) By applying the principles of intentional analysis associated with phenomenology to the experience of time, Gaston Berger substitutes for the “myth of time” a temporal norm, an intersubjective construct for collective action. His philosophy of knowledge is thus constituted as a science of foresight practice whose purpose is normative: it is oriented towards work on values and the construction of a political project; it is a “philosophy in action”.‘ Chloë VIDAL, La prospective territoriale dans tous ses états, Rationalités, savoirs et pratiques de la prospective (1957-2014), p. 31, Lyon, Thèse ENS, 2015. Our translation.

[4] On la prospective territoriale, representing an encounter between the principles of foresight and those of regional development, see the reference to the DATAR international conference in March 1968. Chloë VIDAL, La prospective territoriale dans tous ses états, Rationalités, savoirs et pratiques de la prospective (1957-2014)…, p. 214-215.

[5] Günter CLAR & Philippe DESTATTE, Regional Foresight, Boosting Regional Potential, Mutual Learning Platform Regional Foresight Report, Luxembourg, European Commission, Committee of the Regions and Innovative Regions in Europe Network, 2006.

http://www.institut-destree.eu/Documents/Reseaux/Günter-CLAR_Philippe-DESTATTE_Boosting-Regional-Potential_MLP-Foresight-2006.pdf

[6] Ph. DESTATTE & Ph. DURANCE eds, Les mots-clefs de la prospective territoriale, p. 43, Paris, DIACT-DATAR, La Documentation française, 2009.

[7] Ph. DESTATTE, Evaluation, prospective et développement régional, p. 381, Charleroi, Institut Destrée, 2001.

[8] Ph. Destatte, What is foresight ?, Blog PhD2050, May 30, 2013.

https://phd2050.org/2013/05/30/what-is-foresight/

[9] René-Charles TISSEYRE, Knowledge Management, Théorie et pratique de la gestion des connaissances, Paris, Hermès-Lavoisier, 1999.

[10] Guy GOERMANNE, Note de réflexion, Tentatives de rapprochement entre la prospective et l’intelligence stratégique en Wallonie, p. 7, Brussels, August 2016, 64 p.

[11] Henri MARTRE, Philippe CLERC, Christian HARBULOT, Intelligence économique et stratégie des entreprises, p. 12-13, Paris, Commissariat général au Plan (Plan Commission) – La Documentation française, February 1994.

http://bdc.aege.fr/public/Intelligence_Economique_et_strategie_des_entreprises_1994.pdf

[12] ‘The notion of economic intelligence implies transcending the piecemeal actions designated by the terms documentation, monitoring (scientific and technological, competitive, financial, legal and regulatory etc.), protection of competitive capital, and influencing (strategy for influencing nation-states, role of foreign consultancies, information and misinformation operations, etc). It succeeds in transcending these things as a result of the strategic and tactical intention which is supposed to preside over the steering of piecemeal actions and over ensuring their success, and of the interaction between all levels of activity at which the economic intelligence function is exercised: from the grassroots (within companies), through intermediate levels (interprofessional, local), up to the national (concerted strategies between different decision-making centres), transnational (multinational groups) or international (strategies for influencing nation-states) levels.’ H. MARTRE, Ph. CLERC, Ch. HARBULOT, Intelligence économique et stratégie des entreprises…, p. 12-13. Our translation.

[13] Strategic intelligence can be defined as a set of actions designed to identify, implement, disseminate and protect information in order to make it available to the right person, at the right time, with the goal of making the right decision. (…) Strategic intelligence applied to public policy offers a variety of methodologies to meet the requirements of policy-makers. Derived from Daniel ROUACH, La veille technologique et l’intelligence économique, Paris, PUF, 1996, p. 7 & Intelligence économique et stratégie d’entreprises, Paris, Commissariat général au Plan (Plan Commission), 1994. Alexander TÜBKE, Ken DUCATEL, James P. GAVIGAN, Pietro MONCADA-PATERNO-CASTELLO eds, Strategic Policy Intelligence: Current Trends, the State of the Play and perspectives, S&T Intelligence for Policy-Making Processes, p. V & VII, IPTS, Seville, Dec. 2001.

[14] Ibidem, p. IV.

[15] Günter CLAR & Ph. DESTATTE, Mutual Learning Platform Regional Foresight Report, p. 4, Luxembourg, IRE, EC-CoR, 2006.

[16] Ruud SMITS, The New Role of Strategic Intelligence, in A. TÜBKE, K. DUCATEL, J. P. GAVIGAN, P. MONCADA-PATERNO-CASTELLO eds, Strategic Policy Intelligence: Current Trends, p. 17.

[17] Domenico ROSSETTI di VALDALBERO & Parla SROUR-GANDON, European Forward Looking Activities, EU Research in Foresight and Forecast, Socio-Economic Sciences & Humanities, List of Activities, Brussels, European Commission, DGR, Directorate L, Science, Economy & Society, 2010. http://ec.europa.eu/research/social-sciences/forward-looking_en.htmlEuropean forward-looking activities, Building the future of « Innovation Union » and ERA, Brussels, European Commission, Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, 2011. ftp://ftp.cordis.europa.eu/pub/fp7/ssh/docs/european-forward-looking-activities_en.pdf

[18] ‘Strategic Intelligence is all about feeding actors (including policy makers) with the tailor made information they need to play their role in innovation systems (content) and with bringing them together to interact (amongst others to create common ground).’ Ruud SMITS, Technology Assessment and Innovation Policy, Seville, 5 Dec. 2002. ppt.

[19] A. TÜBKE, K. DUCATEL, J. P. GAVIGAN, P. MONCADA-PATERNO-CASTELLO eds, Strategic Policy Intelligence: Current Trends, …

[20] Innovation Union Information and Intelligence System I3S – EC 09/06/2011.

[21] R. SMITS, The New Role of Strategic Intelligence…, p. 17. – see also R. SMITS & Stefan KUHLMANN, Strengthening interfaces in innovation systems: rationale, concepts and (new) instruments, Strata Consolidating Workshop, Brussels, 22-23 April 2002, RTD-K2, June 2002. – R. SMITS, Stefan KUHLMANN and Philip SHAPIRA eds, The Theory and Practice of Innovation Policy, An International Research Handbook, Cheltenham UK, Northampton MA USA, Edward Elgar, 2010.

[22] Daniel KAHNEMAN, Thinking fast and slow, p. 201, New York, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011.

[23] D. KAHNEMAN, Thinking fast and slow, p. 201.