In recent years, Foresight has emerged as a key instrument for the development and implementation of forward-looking research and innovation policies. Some activities show an interesting mix of approaches combining three types of elements: prospective studies of long-term opportunities and alternatives, participatory networking, and policy orientation. However, far too little attention has been paid to the identification and analysis of Wildcards and Weak Signals (WI-WE).
Weak Signals are past or current developments/issues with ambiguous interpretations of their origin, meaning and/or implications. They are unclear observables warning us about the probability of future events. For example, changes in public attitudes to one thing or another, an emerging pattern of concern about emerging health problems. Finding “relevant” weak signals is one of the most challenging tasks in futures research and their analysis often leads to the identification of potential Wild Cards. Given that weak signals lie in the eye of the observer, practically anything could be a weak signal:
1. Current Strengths & Weaknesses can be weak signals
2. Current Drivers, Trends & Challenges can be weak signals
3. Current Strategies & Policies can be weak signals
4. Emerging Issues can be weak signals
5. Future Drivers, Scenarios, Threats & Opportunities can be weak signals
6. Shared Visions Megatrends & Grand Challenges can be weak signals
7. Hidden Issues (Secrets & Unknowns) can be weak signals
8. Past Wild Cards can be weak signals too!
• 9/11 is also seen as a signal that "terrorists" infiltrated US security circles