Rapid and surprising change

This project was about improving Australia’s ability to anticipate and prepare for major social, economic and environmental change in the next 10-100 years, especially the type of change that creeps up on decision makers and can catch them, and the rest of society, unprepared.


Inner Life of Human MindLeading thinkers in science, economics, industry, government and other fields already know that the future is not predictable in detail or with certainty. They know that by ignoring that fact many individuals, organisations, and societies have left themselves unprepared for surprises and/or made poor decisions based on the assumption that the future will be the same as today. In the extreme, lack of preparedness and bad decisions have caused businesses, other organisations,including governments, and whole societies to suffer serious decline and even complete collapse.

Imagination about, anticipation and perception of, and preparation for future change are particularly important for dealing with change that occurs imperceptibly slowly for years, decades or centuries while building to a point where rapid and major change occurs that requires immediate action to either avert disaster or capitalise on opportunities. The attacks on the USA in September 11, 2001 and the collapse of communism in Russia in the 1980’s are commonly quoted examples of this type of change that is sometimes called “inevitable surprises”. Other technical and non-technical terms used to describe rapid and surprising change include: “thresholds”; “tipping points”; “state changes”; “the straw that broke the camel’s back”; “crash”; “collapse”; and “tipping over the edge”. Once changes of these sorts occur, they can be very difficult, if not impossible to reverse.

Download Resilience Report 1
Cork, S, Eckersley, R & Walker, B, Rapid and surprising change in Australia’s future: Anticipating and preparing for future challenges and opportunities on the way to a sustainable Australia, Australia 21, Canberra.


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