Cover: Shaping the Next One Hundred Years

Shaping the Next One Hundred Years

New Methods for Quantitative, Long-Term Policy Analysis

Published 2003

by Robert J. Lempert, Steven W. Popper, Steven C. Bankes

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A sophisticated reader ought to view with great skepticism the prospect of answering questions about the long-term future. The checkered history of predicting the future — from the famous declarations that humans would never fly to the Limits to Growth study to claims about the “New Economy” — has dissuaded policymakers from considering the effects of their decisions more than a few months or years ahead. However, today’s choices will significantly influence the course of the twenty-first century. New analytic methods, enabled by modern computers, may transform our ability to reason systematically about the long term. This report reviews traditional methods of grappling with the morrow, from narratives to scenario analysis, which fail to address the multiplicity of plausible long-term futures. The authors demonstrate a quantitative approach to long-term policy analysis (LTPA). Robust decision methods enable decisionmakers to examine a vast range of plausible futures and design near-term, often adaptive, strategies to be robust across them. Reframing the question “What will the long-term future bring?” as “How can we choose actions today that will be consistent with our long-term interests?” these methods provide powerful analytic support to humans’ innate capacity for “what-if-ing.” Choosing the challenge of sustainable development as an example, the authors discuss how these methods may be applied to real-world LTPA and a wide range of other challenges of decisionmaking under conditions of deep uncertainty.

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This research described in this report was conducted within RAND Frederick S. Pardee Center for Longer Range Global Policy and the Future Human Condition

This report is part of the RAND monograph report series. The monograph/report was a product of RAND from 1993 to 2003. RAND monograph/reports presented major research findings that addressed the challenges facing the public and private sectors. They included executive summaries, technical documentation, and synthesis pieces.

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