There are bigger changes ahead than we want to admit. We live in a post normal era of surprises, when old visions of the future no longer suffice. We need different narratives about the future, challenging current ones.
Weak signals help us to tell these different stories of the future. A weak signal is a first symptom of change or sign of an emerging phenomenon that could be significant in the future. Weak signals are surprising things that actually happen and challenge current thinking. The unexpectedness or strangeness of a weak signal depends on the interpreter – what are surprises to some are not to others.
If you only gaze at trends, you can get caught up in ongoing changes and become blind to the surprises. Weak signals complement trends not only by introducing more surprising development paths for examination, but also by guiding us to think differently. Where trends lead us to think in terms of continuities and ask “what next”, weak signals emphasise discontinuities and encourage us to ask “what if ”.
In this study, we have sought to bring weak signals, with all of their weirdness, to the everyday level by presenting a number of “what if ” questions that stem from the signals. We have not only wanted to outline not only what futures the weak signals tell us, but also what it would be like to live in those futures. This is why the report is structured around different places and situations. The signals are interpreted in terms of home, workplace, nature and trips to town, decision-making and the digital metaverse. Future stories are also told about each place in addition to the signals and their interpretation.
This report is not an exhaustive overview of all possible topics. We therefore encourage everyone to continue to observe and interpret weak signals and discuss other futures. To support this, the report concludes by describing how to get in your own contemplation of weak signals. The appendix describes in more detail the progress of Sitra’s weak signals work, the choices made and the theoretical background.