In a second step, foresight has to be a bit more artistic, filling the unknown elements of the future with imagination. This imagination has to be, of course, rooted in a profound knowledge of human processes, but it has to be bold and creative to achieve truly good results. This can include methods such as scenarios, which paint a detailed picture of a possible future.
Foresight can be applied to any area of life where change is anticipated or occurring, ranging from technology to economics or defence matters. That said, it should never be mistaken for the future itself: it is a tool to shape the future.
In France, the creation of a High Commission for Planning (Haut Commissariat au Plan) is in particular responsible for "animating and coordinating foresight" within the State. Which tools already exist and which ones should we equip ourselves with?
Foresight in France has a longer tradition than in other European countries, be it in think tanks such as Futuribles, or ministries such as the Analysis and Forecasting Center (CAPS) in the Quai d’Orsay, the Ministry of Defense, or even the Ministry of Agriculture. But it is precisely this tradition that can become its own enemy: foresight has to be, by definition, a bit of a maverick in government policy. Its role is to challenge conventional wisdom, encourage disruptive thinking and think in new ways regular bureaucracy cannot. Where foresight becomes too established, it will struggle to be the challenger it has to be. This is, for instance, visible in the reluctance of governmental foresight to fund the use of big data and artificial intelligence for foresight purposes: because bureaucracy is rarely the first to use innovative methods, they will not make the most of the very sector that requires innovation.
But more importantly, the fluid nature of trends means that no institution doing foresight in France can afford to do foresight alone: agricultural matters will affect military matters, which in turn will affect technological matters which in turn will affect social matters. Foresight has always had to be a 360 degree affair, but this is even more so the case now where speed, connectivity and multiple changes are rendering the picture even more blurred. Anybody wishing to speak "future" fluently has to be versed in all of these aspects and not just one.