State of the Future Index (SOFI)

Tutorial available at

Study initiated and conducted by Theodore J. Gordon

The State of the Future Index is composed of several indicators to help understand and illustrate the overall outlook for the future—whether the future seems to be improving and how different factors are affecting it. Research on this measure began in 2000, first on a global scale and then on national and regional levels. SOFIs have been constructed for several countries, including Azerbaijan, China, East Timor, Kuwait, South Africa, Turkey, and selected countries of the Americas. The Azerbaijan SOFI was computed over the past year, and some highlights are included in this chapter.

SOFI’s computation was further developed in 2012 and a new global SOFI has been constructed. Box 2 presents the variables included in the computation of the 2012 SOFI.

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 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 included in Chapter 2 on the CD that accompany the State of the Future reports.

Variables included in the computation of 2012 SOFI:

  1. Population with access to improved water sources (% of national population)
  2. Literacy rate (% above 15)
  3. Levels of corruption (on a scale 0=highly corrupt to 10=very clean)
  4. School enrollment, secondary (% gross)
  5. Poverty headcount ratio at $1.25 a day (% world population)
  6. Number of countries and groups that had or still have intentions to build nuclear weapons
  7. Total greenhouse gas emissions (106 kt)
  8. Unemployment, total (% of world labor force)
  9. Energy efficiency (GDP/ energy)
  10. Number of wars (more than 1000 killed)
  11. Population growth (annual %)
  12. R&D expenditures (% of GDP)
  13. People killed and injured in terrorist attacks
  14. Electricity production from renewable sources (% production)
  15. Prevalence of undernourishment
  16. Freedom rights (Country Score) (1= most free to 7 least)
  17. Ecological footprint / Biocapacity ratio
  18. GDP per capita (constant 2000 US$)
  19. Voter turnout (% voting population)
  20. Physicians (per 1,000 people)
  21. Internet users (per 1,000 people)
  22. Infant mortality (deaths per 1,000 births)
  23. Forest lands (% of national land area)
  24. Life expectancy at birth (years)
  25. Seats held by women in national parliament (percent of members)
  26. Economic income inequality (share of top 1%)
  27. Total debt services (% of GNI)
  28. Prevalence of HIV (% of population age 15 and 49)

There were some important developments in the computation of the 2012 SOFI compared to earlier SOFIs produced by The Millennium Project. These included:

  • Some of the original variables were replaced with newer variables.

  • A Real Time Delphi was conducted to collect fresh expert judgments about the best and worst expectations for the SOFI variables and probabilities of selected developments that could impinge on the variables.

  • Historical data were updated, new series were inserted when old series were discontinued, new curve fit equations were derived, and new interpolations were made for missing data.

  • The developments included in the Trend Impact Analysis (TIA)were revised, the list updated, and the likelihood and impacts reassessed or changed based on the RTD results.

  • The effect of choice of equations used for the extrapolation of the variables was studied as an effective way of simulating global scenarios within the SOFI context. Best and worst estimates from the RTD were used to help resolve the question of which extrapolation to use.

  • “Sparkline” sketches of the variables and the extrapolations were included in the Excel spreadsheets that serve to compute the SOFI to help visualize the parameters.

The baseline SOFI that resulted from the use of the new data sets for the variables is shown in Figure 1. This figure does not include consideration of the effects of the 90 developments that were examined later using TIA.


Figure 1. SOFI 2012 with Trend Impact Analysis