Uncertainty – Foresight Cards

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When talking about the future of a certain topic, you can, besides change (see Patterns of Change), also address uncertainty. Uncertainty can be, in absolute terms, divided in two extremes: pre-determined elements and controverses.

Pre-determined elements
Events that seem absolutely certain (they will occur or already did) but which consequences are not unfolded yet.

Since the excistence of the universe there have been numerous of huge changes. Changes that are inevitable and where
the effects slowly come to the horizon, for example: global warming. Effects will be: rise of sea-level, increase of natural disasters, regional differences in drought/rain-seasons etc. Pre-determined element are events that already are in the pipeline. It is sure that the event is going to occur. It’s only a matter of time before the effects will become visible. Other examples are: population growth (>effect on natural resources), nuclear disaster (>increase of radiation sickness/cancer).Thinking in scenario’s: pre-determined elements will play a role in all scenario’s, however the way things might work out can differ per scenario.

Events that are divided 50/50: there is just as much change that the event will occur as it will not.

On the other hand of the chain there are events that are absolute uncertain. When the underling events go in different directions when addressing a certain theme than often the theme is controversial. For example: is genetic manipulation of food healthy or not? Some groups will agree, some will disagree. Even so when there is scientific proof, the theme can be socially controversial. Controverses are also being referred as key uncertainties, which results in different scenario’s. Examples of controverses are: governmental influence (increase?/decrease?) and economic growth (increase?/decrease?).

Risk and uncertainty
There is a difference between risk and uncertainty. Uncertainty only address that there is more than one outcome. And it is uncertain which outcome it will be. Risk, often described as change*effect, addresses the unwanted outcome as a loss.

For a example you can be unsure who will win a cooking contest, but as long as you have no interest, there is no risk involved. On the other hand when we had placed a bet, there would be a risk. So uncertainty only refers to the change of a certain outcome. Whereas risk, besides the outcome, also shows the negative losses that are involved.