My name is Bill Ralston. This is a blog of hypotheses about the future based on emerging trends and signals of change. After many assignments developing scenarios of the future for businesses and government agencies, I get to present my views on key forces shaping the globe. I will often focus on commodities—ranging from agricultural products, to minerals and metals, to oil and gas, to fresh water—that drive economic development of emerging economies and are a major factor in the politics, economics, changing physical environment, and social priorities of developed economies. Few appreciate how dynamic Mother Earth is and how extreme the shifts in supply capacity, commodities demand, and resultant money flows can be. Economists, government leaders, and business interests continually overlook commodities’ importance and are often surprised by the wrenching turns of the markets. They simply don’t have good mental models for how commodities markets operate in our complex world and can’t appreciate the range of plausible outcomes they could be facing in both the near- and long-term futures.
In my business life I worked at Brown & Root, SRI International, and Strategic Business Insights. I started off as an engineer, helping design and build oil and gas facilities around the world. I then consulted to energy companies and civil infrastructure operators on strategy, technology, and business issues; I moved into consulting on what businesses and government agencies should do about environmental, health, and safety issues; and eventually found a role where I could integrate all my experiences: I became a corporate futurist, helping management teams develop scenarios of the future for the major issues they were facing. Throughout all of this, I was learning about decision-making under uncertainty, risk management, models of complex environments, and making projections about the future.
In this blog, I want to develop a global futures framework that will enable better insights about challenges the world faces. I want to apply this framework to a host of emerging issues and identify future plausible outcomes that businesses, governments, and societies could face. My analysis template will be (i) hypothesis about future threat or opportunity, (ii) recent signals of change, (iii) plausible outcomes in the future, (iv) implications, and (v) what to watch for in the future.
Emerging issues that are on my agenda to address include ocean-development opportunities and risks; Latin America economic-growth prospects; opening up of the Arctic; commodities dependency of emerging economies; civil infrastructure needs; global agricultural supply; petroleum in the future; climate change policies; Africa and China; Russia and the United States: the world’s largest commodity suppliers; the importance of technology innovation in commodity industries; European-nation energy strategies, etc.
Thank you for reading.