State of the Future Index

Study initiated and conducted by Theodore J. Gordon

2015 SOFI
Previous Global and National SOFIs
(pdf files)



The State of the Future Index is an indication of the 10-year outlook for the future, based on historical data of selected variables for the previous 20 or more years and on judgments about the best and worst plausible 10-year outcomes for each variable. It is constructed with key variables that are individually forecast and that in aggregate can indicate the potential trend of the future.

The SOFI is intended to show the directions and intensity of change and to identify the factors responsible. It provides a mechanism for studying the relationships among the items in a system — how making a single change ripples throughout a system, in other words, creating some positive and intended consequence as well as unintended results. The SOFI is useful for assessing the consequences of different policies and for showing the combined potential outcomes in an easy to understand fashion. It has been produced by The Millennium Project since 2000. For the methodology, see “State of the Future Index” in the Futures Research Methodology section of GFIS (

2015 SOFI

The variables included in the 2015 SOFI, as well as their respective weights (importance to the system), and the “best” and “worst” values in 2025 have been decided through RTD studies and updated by the Millennium Project staff. The sources of data have been carefully considered, are deemed to be reliable, and have good historical data records. However, combining many variables into a single index number can lead to loss of detail, compensating losses in some areas with progress in the others; this could smooth the look of the SOFI line, as well as mask variations among sectors, regions, or nations. The apparent precision of an index should not be mistaken for accuracy. For these reasons, many people interested in tracking social or economic conditions prefer to keep the variables that they consider important separate and distinct.

The State of the Future Index was first described in The Millennium Project’s 2001 State of the Future. Since then, the SOFI chapter in the annual State of the Future reports has focused on improvements in the data sources and the method itself. Details on all SOFI reserach and the analysis and supporting data are available on the GFIS website (under Research, select "State of the Future Index".)

SOFI has been constructed for the global level as well as for countries. Some of the Millennium Project’s experiments with the index have illustrated how it might be used for policy purposes by demonstrating the effects of proposed policies on a nominal State of the Future Index. By using standard variables for constructing national SOFIs, it allows comparisons among nations.

The variables included in SOFI were selected from a set of indicators rated by an international Delphi panel for their capacity for showing progress or regress on the 15 Global Challenges and the availability of at least 20 years of reliable historical data. The variables were submitted several times to an international panel selected by The Millennium Project’s Nodes to forecast the best and worst values for each variable in 10 years. These were used for the normalization and integration of all the variables into a single index and for computation of the State of the Future Index. Online historical data sources for essentially all the variables were obtained, although some manipulation was required, and the data were fit with time series equations to both interpolate missing data points and to obtain forecasts for the next 10 years.

The 2015 SOFI indicates a slower progress since 2008, as a prolonged effect of the economic turmoil, although the overall outlook is promising.

Excerpt from the 2015-16 State of the Future:

2015 State of the Future Index

Variables used in the 2015–16 State of the Future Index:

  1. GNI per capita, PPP (constant 2011 international $)
  2. Economic income inequality (income share held by highest 10%)
  3. Unemployment, total (% of world labor force)
  4. Poverty headcount ratio at $1.25 a day (PPP) (% of population)
  5. CPIA transparency, accountability, and corruption in the public sector rating
    (1=low; 6=high)
  6. Foreign direct investment, net inflows (BoP, current $, billions)
  7. R&D expenditures (% of GDP)
  8. Population growth (annual %)
  9. Life expectancy at birth (years)
  10. Mortality rate, infant (per 1,000 live births)
  11. Prevalence of undernourishment (% of population)
  12. Health expenditure per capita (current $)
  13. Physicians (per 1,000 people)
  14. Improved water source (% of population with access)
  15. Renewable internal freshwater resources per capita (cubic meters)
  16. Biocapacity per capita (gha)
  17. Forest area (% of land area)
  18. Fossil fuel and cement production emissions (MtC/yr)
  19. Energy efficiency (GDP per unit of energy use
    (constant 2011 PPP $ per kg of oil equivalent))
  20. Electricity production from renewable sources, excluding hydroelectric
    (% of total)
  21. Literacy rate, adult total (% of people aged 15 and above)
  22. School enrollment, secondary (% gross)
  23. Share of high-skilled employment (%)
  24. Number of wars and armed conflicts
  25. Terrorism incidents
  26. Freedom rights (number of countries rated “free”)
  27. Proportion of seats held by women in national parliaments (% of members)
  28. Internet users (per 100 people)


One of the advantages of computing the SOFI is the identification of the areas where we are winning or losing or stagnating—thereby helping set priorities. The following figures show where humanity is making progress and where more political attention and efforts are needed. This can be further analyzed by assessing the individual variables and their potential trajectories.

Where Are We Winning?

Winning 2013

Where we are losing or there is no progress

Losing 2013


A sensitivity analysis (using multiple regressions) revealed that the following variables would have a highly significant impact on the overall SOFI:
• Terrorism incidents
• Economic income inequality
• Foreign direct investment, net inflows
• Renewable internal freshwater resources per capita
• Energy efficiency (GDP per unit of energy use)

The follwing figure shows how the SOFI would be affected by 25% improvements in energy efficiency and income inequality by 2025. The compounded effect—if both were to occur—would produce a 5.15% improvement to the global SOFI, while the individual effects would be 1.8% improvement for increased energy efficiency and 3.2% for reduced income inequality.

State of the Future Index 2015 with 25% improvements of Energy Efficiency and Income Inequality between 2016 and 2025


The analysis and the forecast of all the variables are included in the SOFI section (pdf file) of the 2015-16 State of the Future.

In several years, the SOFI was computed using Trend Impact Analisis (TIA), which generated a fan of possibilities rather than single values and allowed a more profound analysis of how different develoments might potentially influence the future.

2011 State of the Future Index with TIA



See GFIS for whole report and a history of Global SOFIs.


National SOFIs

Some examples of national SOFIs include:


SOFI for Four European countries

2014 SOFI Comparison among V4 countries -- Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland
V4 Project, 2014; the entire study is available at



Azerbaijan SOFI 2011

How would the future of Azerbaijan look like over the next ten years, if there were no significant changes in the trends of the world and those of Azerbaijan? And what does a better Azerbaijan look like? What indicators should be chosen to show that the future is getting better or not? Changes to which of these indicators might have the greatest impact for improving the general future of Azerbaijan? What potential future developments might affect the situation?

The Azerbaijan State of Future Index (AZ-SOFI) is intended to answer such questions and contribute to the strategic planning process for the future of Azerbaijan.

The AZ-SOFI is an assessment of the 10-year outlook of the future (2011-2020) based on 20 years of historical data and 10-year forecasts of 20 key variables.

A set of 24 developments and 20 variables were initially selected by a Core Expert Group and then assessed by a larger group of experts through an online questionnaire using a Real-Time Delphi (RTD). The survey was conducted in October 2011 and involved the participation of over 100 experts from 13 countries.

The 20 variables (listed below) were chosen for their importance to the country’s future and the availability of historical data for the previous 20 years. The resulting AZ‑SOFI graph shows an accelerating improvement over the past 20 years (1991‑2010) and continued progress for the following decade, but at a slower rate than the one recorded for the preceding 3‑5 years.

2011 Azerbaijan State of the Future Index—baseline

SOFI-Azerbaijan 2011

The ratings of of 24 potential future developments that might affect the future of Azerbaijan (listed in Box 2) were used for computing an AZ-SOFI applying a Trend Impact Analysis (TIA). This generated various potential projections affecting the AZ-SOFI.

2011 Azerbaijan State of the Future Index with TIA

SOFI Azerbaijan 2011 with TIA

2011 AZ-SOFI variables

  1. Total GDP (mln manat)
  2. GDP per capita (manat)
  3. Fixed capital (mln manat)
  4. Labor force (economically active) (thousands)
  5. Bank assets (Broad money) (mln manat)
  6. TFP (GDP/FC/LF)
  7. Non oil GDP (percent of total GDP)
  8. CO2 emissions (thousand ton)
  9. Capital investments for environmental protection and rational utilization of natural resources (mln manat)
  10. Total protected area (percent of total land area)
  11. GINI coefficient (a measure of inequality)
  12. Population growth rate (percent)
  13. Life expectancy (years)
  14. Labor migration - foreign employees in country (persons)
  15. Percentage of seats held by women in national parliament.
  16. Unemployment (percent)
  17. Total energy production in oil equivalent (thousand ton)
  18. Electric energy consumption per capita (thousand kwh)
  19. Internet users per 100 population
  20. Investment in ICT, total (mln manat)

Potential future developments that might affect the future of Azerbaijan

  1. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan is resolved peacefully.
  2. Azerbaijan joins the WTO, which leads to significant trend in food security and activities of farm workers.
  3. The biological resources of the Caspian Sea, inland lakes and river basins are protected through, for example, effective laws and treaties.
  4. Five-Nation agreement on territorial boundaries of the Caspian Sea.
  5. Effective Azerbaijan monetary policy is achieved in coordination with the International Financial Institutions through, for example, adjustment of interest rates.
  6. Azerbaijan establishes an accelerated depreciation policy for direct foreign and local investments.
  7. Azerbaijan establishes policies designed to increase innovation and the technological component of fixed assets.
  8. Azerbaijan establishes a labor policy designed to balance supply and demand taking into account migration and demography.
  9. The non-oil component of Azerbaijan’s GDP increases by at least 70% from that of 2011.
  10. The share of production and services classified as innovative rises to 30% of all production and services.
  11. Flooding of the Kura and other rivers is controlled.
  12. Water consumption problems are essentially solved
  13. Green construction becomes 5% or more of overall construction.
  14. The number of people living below the poverty line remains at 12-15% or less.
  15. The number of people below the poverty line who work in low-paying jobs is increasing by 20%.
  16. At least 30% of all non-face-to-face classroom education occurs through e-learning (distance learning), education in the workplace, or other types of non-institutional education.
  17. Rapid increase of urbanization results in overpopulation, and environmental and social conflicts.
  18. At least 30% of all high school graduates enter universities.
  19. Labor market is short of qualified personnel by at least 20%.
  20. Share of alternative energy production (e.g. wind energy, solar, geothermal, biomass, hydro) rises to 10%.
  21. Energy efficiency increases 1% per year for at least 10 years in a row in 4 sectors: housing, household appliances, transport, and industry.
  22. A new communications satellite scheduled for launch in 2013 leads to increased ICT revenues by at least 30%.
  23. Broadband capacity in Azerbaijan improves 100% through the use of fiber optic cable.
  24. E-government is used by 50% of the voting age population.

A sensitivity analysis based on the outcomes provides important information to decision-makers, identifying some structural and policy changes that might improve the future outlook of Azerbaijan and ensure that the country’s long-term vision is not dependent on oil-based economy.

The developments judged as having the highest potential impact on the future of Azerbaijan, were:

  • Water consumption problems are essentially solved.
  • The non-oil component of Azerbaijan’s GDP increases by at least 70% from that of 2011.
  • The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan is resolved peacefully.
  • Broadband capacity in Azerbaijan improves 100% through the use of fiber optic cable.
  • The share of production and services classified as innovative rises to 30% of all production and services.


Americas Selected Countries’ National SOFIs

In 2004, The Millennium Project computes the SOFI for 10 countries of the Americas, using standard variables. This allowed a comparison among countries. The following two graphs show more explicitly the differences between countries’ comparative values of SOFIs and the non–adjusted SOFI absolute values.

Countries’ non–adjusted SOFI absolute values


Comparative values of the countries SOFIs


See the whole report with national SOFIs for the Americas (2004, 2005, and 2006) and some other related analysis.


See the 2013 State of the future Index and previous Global and National SOFIs.