What should the future of politics be?

A look into the future

Foresight process of the BMWi: A look into the future

Strategic foresight

Digitization is not a linear process, the trend of which can easily be continued. Rather, the dynamics, direction and interaction of individual technologies are bursty and disruptive, so that medium to long-term forecasts are difficult to make. At the same time, there is a great interest in economic policy in developing ideas about possible developments in digitization at an early stage and in identifying related challenges. For this purpose, methods of futurology can be used, in particular the "strategic foresight" instrument.

The "Strategic Foresight" - or "Strategic Foresight" - is a field of future research that deals with future social, political or technological developments. Developments that are still in the initial phase and may initially only be perceived by experts are also regularly considered.

The aim of the process is not to predict a specific outcome by specifying a probability. Rather, several “futures” should be highlighted. In doing so, scenarios can also be considered that initially appear improbable, but are nevertheless conceivable under certain development paths. The process thus serves as an instrument for strategic planning in order to be prepared for unlikely but possible developments.

The BMWi process

The aim of the foresight process of the BMWi is to consider not a single, but several possible developments for the future of the digitized German economy in different facets over a time horizon of 10 to 15 years. Various scenarios with a view to digitization and the associated changes in the German economic structure are qualitatively analyzed and economic policy implications are derived.

Developments in selected key technologies form the starting point. These include digital platforms, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, autonomous systems, blockchain, big data, quantum computers and Industry 4.0.

Most of these technologies are already familiar to many, but their application potential and interaction are far from being exhausted or clearly foreseeable. Interdisciplinary expert knowledge is necessary in order to assess this appropriately and in its entirety.

The future scenarios to be developed focus on the interactions and implications of these key technologies with economic areas and the social market economy. The following questions can be examined in such scenarios: changes in production processes, property rights to data, liability aspects of autonomous systems or competition law issues of digital platforms and their possible consequences for growth, productivity and income development, the corporate landscape and structural change.

In the last step, challenges for the social market economy are identified on this basis and options for action are derived. These in turn serve as input for designing a regulatory framework for the digitized economy.