The future of AI according to strategic foresight

| 15 mins | 15 mins
The future is coming, whether we want it to or not. But if we can anticipate it, we can also navigate better. This is why strategic foresight is crucial. Strategic foresight is a systematic and forward-looking approach to understanding, anticipating, and planning the future. It involves the exploration and analysis of potential future scenarios, trends and uncertainties to help organizations and individuals make informed decisions and develop strategies that are resilient and adaptable. As a senior foresight manager at Volvo Group Connected Solutions Innovation Lab, I have been at the forefront of this transformation, driving change and practicing strategic foresight.
Emily Xiangxuan Xu
Emily Xiangxuan Xu

Future trends 

In the current landscape, several trends are shaping our world, including energy transition, supply chain regionalization, geopolitical tensions, data privacy laws, cybersecurity, and the proliferation of artificial intelligence (AI). AI, in particular, is a game-changer, with tools like ChatGPT marking the beginning of a new era. Approximately one-third of companies are already leveraging AI and others are exploring its vast potential. The ability that AI offers to streamline operations, enhance decision-making, save time, and elevate customer experiences is driving this trend.


For multinational corporations, strategic foresight is a powerful tool to understand the uncertainties that come with AI. It enables companies to proactively anticipate forthcoming challenges and opportunities, allowing them to make informed decisions, adapt, and thrive. In an era defined by a rapid transformation of business dynamics enabled by AI, strategic foresight is the compass that keeps corporations ahead of the curve, preventing them from being caught off guard by unexpected developments.


The debate about AI

The debate about AI acceleration or AI alignment is hot in the tech world, but unfortunately, it has not attracted much attention from the public. This is concerning because the decisions made by a small elite group of AI specialists can have major implications for the future of humanity. On one hand, those who advocate for AI acceleration want to push the boundaries of what AI can do and how fast it can do it, believing that the benefits of AI outweigh the potential risks. On the other hand, those who prioritize AI alignment are concerned about the ethical, societal, and safety implications of AI development. They believe that more attention should be paid to ensure that AI is developed and deployed in a way that aligns with human values. The fact that this debate is happening primarily among a small group of AI experts and elites is concerning, because it means that the larger society is not being given the opportunity to have a say in the future of AI. What does this imply? The lack of public awareness and involvement in the AI debate can have several potential consequences:


  • Lack of societal buy-in. Without public input and awareness, there is a risk that AI development and deployment will be seen as being imposed on society rather than something that is being developed for the benefit of the society. This could lead to resistance and pushback against AI.
  • Lack of diversity of perspectives. If the debate is only happening among a small group of AI experts, there is a risk that the perspectives of different groups, e.g. those most impacted by AI, are not being considered.
  • Missed opportunities. Failing to engage the public in the AI debate could also result in missed opportunities to identify creative solutions and innovative ideas that could help shape the future of AI in a more positive and inclusive way.


In a world where AI is a catalyst for change, embracing strategic foresight is the key to not only surviving but thriving in the age of artificial intelligence, prompting us to ask: Are we ready to shape the future, or will we let the future shape us?

What is Foresight?

Making predictions for the future involves a lot of work. When I started working with foresight, the first thing I did was to build a knowledge bank, a foundation for how we portray the world. To understand what is happening around us, I continually scan the external environment to identify trends, technological developments, social changes, economic shifts, and other factors. Analyzing trends involves examining patterns of change over time and predicting how these trends might evolve in the future. Strategic foresight is both an art and a science, guiding us on where to set our sights and how to secure victory amidst the uncertainties of the future. It all begins with a thorough examination of facts and trends, weaving them into scenarios that allow us to make informed predictions. We take an “outside–in” approach, absorbing external cues, and then anchor these insights within our own context to understand what they mean for us.


An example of how we work with trends is to aggregate them further into future scenarios. This method became well-known during the 1970s when Shell successfully predicted the oil crisis and triumphed from it by applying scenario planning. Since then, scenario planning has been established as the key foresight technique that emphasizes the importance of systematic thinking. During the first year when I was onboard, we adopted scenario planning methods to build the foundation of foresight knowledge bank. We came up with five future scenarios within the theme connectivity-empowered transportation landscape 2035/2040 (see in the picture below). Now five years have passed, and we see solid proof points of how accurate our predictions are.

The 5 future scenarios: the connectivity-empowered TRANSPORTATION LANDSCAPE 2035/2040

For example, we successfully predicted “Partnership is the new leadership” years before it became the hot topic it is today. This is in the new way of working scenarios Blurred Business Boundaries (the one on the right up corner), meaning small players overthrow established giants, companies partner up with rivals, and yet others buy players in entirely different markets to gain strategic position. The boundaries of a business landscape has withered and been replaced by a rapidly changing network-based arena.


We predicted the regionalization and to some extend the pandemic in our Black Swan scenario Beyond Holocene (the one on the up-left corner), and even better, we predicted the speed-up of decarbonization (during the Covid) in the Climate scenario From Zero to Hero, in which we see for example, sharing carbon footprint becomes a standard practice among large international companies.


Ai is a great tool that we explore to fuel more efficiency into foresight. Practical applications of strategic foresight and AI include identifying innovative and competitive uses for AI, evaluating AI’s impact on the industry and market, anticipating potential risks and threats, and devising strategies to mitigate these risks. It also aids in the crucial task of identifying and attracting the right talent to drive AI-related projects. Research shows that future-prepared organizations outperform the average. Considering this, it is crucial to apply a foresight approach to identify and capture future growth opportunities. AI tools can be game-changing in this regard, offering a myriad of benefits from boosting productivity to enhancing creativity and performance.


AI tools are revolutionizing the way we work, increasing efficiency by removing redundancy in tasks, and allowing more time for creativity. AI can also be programmed to generate new ideas and solutions, providing a starting point when you are running out of creativity to ideate innovative business models. Moreover, AI’s unparalleled ability to analyze vast amounts of data and recognize complex patterns enables it to identify nascent trends, uncover potential disruptions, and provide actionable insights to guide your organization through the unknown future. AI is also being used in the context of patent analysis to predict future technological developments. However, it is important to note that while AI can accelerate trend analysis and project future trajectories, it lacks the human judgment required for contextualizing interconnections between trends or validating AI outputs with a nuanced perspective. Therefore, it is crucial to supplement AI-generated insights with your own research to ensure that the latest trends and developments are accurately interpreted and analyzed.



The future of strategic foresight lies in harnessing the collaborative potential of human expertise and AI. By combining both, organizations can make more informed decisions, saving valuable time and resources while gaining deeper insights into emerging trends. As AI technology advances, it is poised to become an indispensable asset in strategic foresight, revolutionizing organizations by optimizing resources and saving valuable time.

Author bio:

Emily Xiangxuan Xu is a senior foresight manager at Volvo Group Connected Solutions Innovation Lab since 2018. As an economist and a forward-thinking strategist, she thrives in the big picture, constantly seeking out facts, trends, scenarios, and novel business models to create the future we aspire to inhabit.


Do you want to connect with Emily? Check out her LinkedIn page here.

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