SMA hosted a speaker session with Mr. Josh Kerbel (Professor of Practice, National Intelligence University) and Mr. Jason Schenker (Chairman, The Futurist Institute; President, Prestige Economics) as part of its SMA NIU Panel Discussion.
The COVID-19 pandemic occurred at a time when the global community was more physically and digitally connected than ever before. Mr. Kerbel reflected that those working in the information community (IC) believed that the pandemic would alter their collective worldview and modus operandi. However, he believes that while a larger portion of the IC works from home than ever before, the pandemic did not actually change the IC’s worldview. Instead, while global COVID-19 rates have started to decrease, members of the IC have already started to shift their mindset back to Cold War-era thinking. This is partly because the IC is built to handle complicated issues well, but it is not currently structured to achieve its objectives in a modern world comprised of complex systems. For example, the cyber domain and digital realm did not exist during the Cold War. These developments have led to the addition of an entirely new theatre of asymmetric warfare since the Cold War. Mr. Kerbel also argued that even though some members in the IC believe that countries are going through a phase of deglobalization and that the US is decoupling from China, neither of these hypotheses are true.
Being able to better predict the future would assist the IC in its ability to prepare and handle oncoming challenges. Mr. Schenker commented that The Futurist Institute can help predict these future threats and chart them along event pathways. The institute identified four pathways in its framework relating to security issues, including: a) continuation, b) collapse and decline, c) discipline and limits, and d) transformation. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, the framework identified more optimistic pathways related to global security than the ones identified today. These more pessimistic pathways were identified following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Mr. Schenker identified several systemic threats exacerbated by the pandemic, including food insecurity, drought, jobs, disinformation, and growing diplomatic tensions between states, often within other states. Other growing threats from the post-pandemic era include the rising cost of living in developing countries, the persistently high price of gas, and China’s growing debt holdings over low-income countries.