#ReadingNotes: The Only Three Trends That Matter: A Minimum Specification for Future-Proofing by Leah Zaidi

Interesting paper that makes 3 claims: (a) future-proofing needs to focus on systemic issues to do organisational future proofing; (b) 3 megatrends are enough to do that; (c) those trends are: 1. climate; 2. AI; and, 3. the battle for an equal, just, and democratic society. I agree with (a) but more attention needed to how select the top megatrends to avoid centering one values set over others (in this case the ‘justice’ trend reflects progressive values that I happen to share but others would frame it very differently).

This post is part of the #ReadingNotes series, see here for more (including format and use of bulletpoints).

Zaidi, Leah. “The Only Three Trends That Matter: A Minimum Specification for Future-Proofing.” Journal of Futures Studies 25.2 (2020): 95-102. [Link as at 24/01/21.]


  • Introducing a minimum specification for future-proofing may help cut through the noise and surface what is needed for us to ensure a sustainable, viable future for humanity.
  • Given the sheer number of trend predictions, it can be difficult to determine what is critical and warrants attention.
  • Argues there are only three trends that matter as they will dominate and shape our reality in the years to come.
    1. Climate change and the havoc it will wreak. Climate change will impact everything. There is no Planet B.
    2. The battle for an equal, just, and democratic society. Demonstrated by rise of populism plus tech companies  eroding the fabric of democracy and wield more power than entire countries.
    3. The rise of artificial intelligence. Economic importance plus fundamental decisions are driven by entrepreneurs, while policy as struggled to keep pace.
  • We have now reached a point in history where continuation scenarios of unlimited economic growth are no longer probable futures; they are a fantasy.
  • A minimum specification for future-proofing that accounts for the most critical of our systemic issues. If we equate future-proofing with systems-oriented outcomes rather than organizationally beneficial ones, we may have an opportunity to bridge the gap between social futures and organizational strategy.
  • When we design for the future and from the future, we should ask:
    1. How does it support long-term environmental sustainability?
    2. How does it enable justice, equality, and democracy?
    3. How is it helped or hindered by artificial intelligence; is it ethical technology?
  • Innovations, policies, or strategic planning initiatives that do not equally consider climate change, the battle for equality, justice, and democracy, and artificial intelligence are deficient.
  • When we stop focusing on trends and start focusing on systems, we will have a better, more complete understanding of what possibilities may emerge next.


  • Having a larger number of mega-trends is often counter productive.
  • Need to link organisational future-proofing with critical systems issues.
  • Yes, the physical and political realities of climate change is an ‘ur’ megatrend, which is already having indisputable effect in shaping and dominating our reality (even if you deny the physics, the politics are huge).



  • Why these three, framed this way?
    • No discussion of other contenders that have been tested but fall short.
    • Would everyone agree on the issues and the way they are framed?
    • If not, then what process was used to determine them, and what gives you the claim on such truth? How have you avoided putting your own experience at the center, even unintentionally, and so putting others at the margin?
  • Even if agree on rise of populism and undermining effect eroding the fabric of democracy, is ‘the battle for an equal, just, and democratic society’ the best way to frame this megatrend? Or does the name rather reveal the preferences of the one doing the naming? While I might hope the arc of history bends towards justice, my ‘just society’ isn’t the same as others’. That’s part of what is contested. Not everyone is battling for equality, or put that as a feature of the trend.
    • For instance, wouldn’t a Brexit or Trump supporter frame this as something more identity based, for instance the battle for my group success.
    • A decolonial lens might (might!) have: the battle by incumbent powers (former colonisers and their white superiority myth) to maintain their higher status.
    • Or a more neutral frame might be: the batter for voice and control. Or, the crisis in democracy and knowledge claims?
  • Does the three change over time? For instance, 15 years ago would one of the trends have been globalisation?


In my futures work:

  • Equate future-proofing with systems-oriented outcomes rather than organizationally beneficial ones, as a bridge the gap between social futures and organizational strategy.
  • Try using these three mega-trends (though with the caveats above).

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