Exploring the emerging challenges
Part II of diving into 'Optimism is Blooming in a World Gone Mad' by JA studio

We recently published our partner JA studio's findings on the status quo of our world. The Optimism is Blooming in a World Gone Mad publication shared the thoughts, worries and ideas of 138 design thinkers and doers in our network. Over the next couple of months, we'll be sharing some key findings and compare them to our results from the similar publication Visual Field Notes from 2016.

Today, we're looking further into the emerging challenges, the global issues that survey participants worry most about, which are yet to be identified or addressed on a global scale.

The 138 sources in this study identified 214 individual challenges for the world to conquer. These were divided into 34 groups and, surprisingly enough, 17 are covered in the current UN SDGs. These challenges were:

  • Computers vs. humans
  • [Lack of] diversity
  • Emotion disruption
  • Ethical dilemmas
  • Global liveability
  • Interlinked systemic issues
  • Investment conventionalities
  • "Mad" world
  • Media and communication issues
  • Parental concerns
  • Political erosion
  • Post-factual world
  • Refugee crisis
  • Risk aversion
  • Science scepticism
  • Segregation and lack of social cohesion
  • Tourism flows

Of these 17 groups, 11 of them were already identified in the report from 2016, while six of them are entirely new. Here's a quick breakdown of the emerging challenge and why respondents are concerned.

Demographic livability 
In short, this topic represents concerns in dealing with a growing population. Making room for everyone is and will continue to pose complex political and ethical dilemmas we don't know how to tackle yet. The respondents identifying this challenge had both practical worries, such as how to feed a growing population, and also bigger emotional burdens. They particularly expressed worry for accommodating the expanding elderly population while closing the gap of disengagement between generations.

Ethical dilemmas
Many of the European respondents in the report identified a global problem around ethical leadership. They pointed out the increasing amount of ethical challenges in leadership worldwide, referring to how leadership had become "results-oriented". One even mentioned "solutionism in the tech industry" on behalf of ethical thinking. Index Board Member Teddy Zebitz described it liked this: “We're missing ethics and moral compasses to benefit humankind. All other issues are just technical and will be solved."

‘Madness’ and emotional instability
While interviewing the respondents, our partners noticed an undeniable prevalence of the word “mad”. Used to describe the current state of the world, it showcased a clear feeling among sources that what we know to be sane and trustworthy, no longer exists. In close relation to the issue of a post-factual society, it's a feeling of the world losing its sanity and order. Design Anthropologist Anne Kirah even said: "Idiocracy is no longer a bad comedy film, its reality".

Parental concerns
Thanks to voices like Greta Thunberg, the world can no longer ignore the fact that we're handing over a damaged planet to the next generation. This isn't just a fact, it's something that's starting to truly haunt us. Many respondents shared major fears for the safety and livelihood of their children aligned with professional or sectoral concerns. Although this topic may seem obvious, it's now evolved from an internal worry to broadly discussed topic.

Science scepticism
The issues of a post-factual society have crept into many of our current worries for the future. Many respondents expressed a fear in the erosion of the respect and understanding of science and scientific processes. Very specifically, it was worded as a lack of "situatedness and appreciation of others, losing ancestral knowledge, and letting too little knowledge pave the way for historical ignorance".

Tourism flows
Lastly, is an issue that many living in the centre of big cities find hard to ignore. Respondents identified how mass tourism can potentially limit the quality of life for the inhabitants of popular spots. Also, it can cause damage to tourism experiences all over, especially in countries like Iceland, Barcelona and Thailand.

Want to know more? Check out the publication for yourself or continue to follow our exploration of findings in the report.


Image: Chloe Simpson