Use the future to build the present
World Simulation
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Stakeholder Type
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1Quantum Revolution& Advanced AI2HumanAugmentation3Eco-Regeneration& Geo-Engineering4Science& Diplomacy1.11.21.31.42.12.22.32.43.13.23.33.43.54.14.24.34.44.5HIGHEST ANTICIPATIONPOTENTIALAdvancedArtificial IntelligenceQuantumTechnologiesBrain-inspiredComputingBiologicalComputingCognitiveEnhancementHuman Applications of Genetic EngineeringRadical HealthExtensionConsciousnessAugmentation DecarbonisationWorldSimulationFuture FoodSystemsSpaceResourcesOceanStewardshipComplex Systems forSocial EnhancementScience-basedDiplomacyInnovationsin EducationSustainableEconomicsCollaborativeScience Diplomacy
1Quantum Revolution& Advanced AI2HumanAugmentation3Eco-Regeneration& Geo-Engineering4Science& Diplomacy1.11.21.31.42.12.22.32.43.13.23.33.43.54.14.24.34.44.5HIGHEST ANTICIPATIONPOTENTIALAdvancedArtificial IntelligenceQuantumTechnologiesBrain-inspiredComputingBiologicalComputingCognitiveEnhancementHuman Applications of Genetic EngineeringRadical HealthExtensionConsciousnessAugmentation DecarbonisationWorldSimulationFuture FoodSystemsSpaceResourcesOceanStewardshipComplex Systems forSocial EnhancementScience-basedDiplomacyInnovationsin EducationSustainableEconomicsCollaborativeScience Diplomacy

Emerging Topic:

3.2World Simulation

Associated Sub-Fields

Humans exist embedded in complex “social-ecological systems” that are composed of interconnected physical, biological, and socio-economic systems. Understanding social-ecological systems (SESs) relies on integrating knowledge of the underlying disciplines, and the way that they interrelate. Holistic transdisciplinary understanding is vital to addressing the grand challenges and ‘wicked problems’ facing society in the 21st century, such as those related to climate change, growth in the human population and disruptions to the global economy. Yet society lacks the capacity to measure and predict the relevant interconnections that would facilitate evidence-based policymaking and resource management, whether in urban planning or nature conservation.

However, this is now becoming possible through our increasing ability to integrate a wide variety of data and models into “world simulations” that leverage global networks of environmental sensors and ever-growing computing power. The ultimate ambition is an integrated planetary avatar that spans physical, biological, social and economic dimensions from local to global scales. As decision-support tools, the progenitors of such a system will model potential scenarios, helping us to safely navigate the Anthropocene; this unprecedented “social-ecological foresight” will serve society to protect and sustain our civilisation and the planet.

By developing such avatars and sharing data, these tools will one day allow not only government entities but also civil society — corporations, NGOs, and citizen groups — to explore alternative scenarios for the future of their region, and lead to better informed decision making.

Selection of GESDA Best Reads and further key reports

An early report by Young et al. surveyed the prospects of Socio-Ecological Systems and proposed the expansion of this field to cover the impacts of “mega-trends”.1 More recently, work by the IDEA Consortium2 and Enders and Hoßbach3 have provided detailed analyses of progress.

Digital models are already becoming an increasingly popular tool among both scientists and policymakers. Despite their growing popularity though, respondents felt that none of the main modelling technologies are likely to reach maturity in the near-term with timelines ranging from 10–14 years. Despite similar levels of anticipatory need across the four key domains, digital cities stood out for having the highest potential for disruption and pervasiveness. That points to an expectation that smart city technologies and the use of simulation in urban management will become ubiquitous in the coming years.

GESDA Best Reads and Key Resources