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What if...not? The cost of assumptions

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This Chaillot Paper focuses on untested and unverified assumptions about the future, and how these impact on foresight. Such assumptions are often formulated in the absence of concrete evidence to support them and, rather like blind spots, can distort our perceptions and lead policymakers to commit strategic blunders.

Many such assumptions suffer from an inbuilt bias: they take it for granted that the future will be a lot like yesterday and today. But the future is not a replication of the past, and history rarely repeats itself.

The scenarios presented in this volume all hinge on the absence of a development that was expected to materialise because it was based on assumptions. The scenarios therefore serve as assumptions checks: they articulate assumptions that underpin European policies, test them against reality – and perhaps most importantly, show their cost should they turn out to be untrue. Together, these scenarios help not only focus the spotlight on assumptions worth reviewing, but also highlight the dangers of relying too heavily on them.