Prepared by Vision Foresight Strategy LLC for Alaska Venture Fund, June 2023

Trends Driving Change

In terms of current trends, there are very strong structural forces pulling old social, economic, and political patterns apart. At the same time, there are definitely new voices and ideas rising up in response to the challenges the world faces today. These positive trends, however, will need to gain significant strength, quickly, in order to redirect the current trajectory.

  • We are becoming more diverse in identity and views, while the traditional institutions that used to bring us together are losing legitimacy and effectiveness.
  • The reach and power of technology has expanded dramatically, promising solutions to large, complex challenges and inviting new risks with strategic consequences.
  • While the attention to traditionally marginalized groups has definitely increased, suggesting new influence, as more of the world’s population begins to personally confront climate change, those groups may be more validated, or they might get lost in the rising chorus of cries for attention.

Emerging Possibilities

Alaska is in a transitional period that involves the unraveling of a great many historical patterns. In the context of this transition, the central insight from the emerging issues analysis is that there is a short window of genuine opportunity for indigenous communities to position themselves advantageously before a new set of national and international relationships solidify across the Arctic.

  • Indigenous Soft Power on the Rise: With new tech platforms and a growing knowledge that the existing power system does not have all the answers, indigenous points of view take on new prominence.
  • Remoteness No Longer a Barrier: Growing regional internet access plus social and technological developments equal an opportunity for remote communities.
  • Generational Divisions Widen: Maintaining strong generational ties means health for culture—but may require flexibility from elders.

Exploring the Shift from the Old Order to the Next Order

The region is in the midst of a multilayered and very complex transition. Scenarios outlining different pathways through the transition range from high end conflict among major world powers to domestic distraction and divisions preventing change and adaptation. Moving through this period will require big-picture views of the continually shifting landscape, combined with consistent ground-level innovation and adaptation.

  • Anticipating acceleration: the current breadth and speed of technological changes, combined with increasing climate impacts, suggests a need to anticipate disruptions happening sooner than expected.
  • Strategically linking interests: given the very different levels on which various actors are maneuvering in the Arctic, part of effectively navigating the transition might entail strategically compromising to link key goals of powerful actors with critical community adaptations.
  • Risks of stumbling are high: with so many moving parts and competing interests, scenarios featuring the failure to strategically anticipate and adapt to change seem likely.

Launching New Conversations, Informing New Pathways

This horizon scan is intended to be a starting point – not the final word – for new discussions about the long-term future. While the range of possible futures over the next decade is expansive, the information in this report can serve as a springboard for engaging in nuanced and multifaceted conversations about the many intersecting forces shaping the future and the multitude of threats and opportunities they may create.