The Institute for the Future of Knowledge

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Institute for the Future of Knowledge

About the Institute

The future is an ancient concern, and one that has regained prominence recently, with the acceleration of technological development. UJ is establishing an Institute for the Future of Knowledge (IFK), extending its leadership of the Fourth Industrial Revolution in South Africa and beyond.


The Institute has not yet been launched. This page is a "stub". Launch details will be announced later in 2020.


Reimagining the world after COVID-19

Report Released: Framework for Decisions in a Post-COVID World

A Framework for Decisions in a Post-COVID World – South Africa – Report 1.0
Decision Tool SA 1.0

The document identifies six fundamental policy priorities which, together, constitute a framework for making all-things-considered policy decisions. These decisions must respond to immediate needs for action, but must also be taken with a view to the future (the post-COVID world). The policy decisions that frame them are not created by this pandemic: they existed before it, will persist beyond it, and constitute the reason that we care about COVID-19 and its consequences.

Available evidence suggests that South Africa’s lockdown lacks a strong evidence base, especially when compared to moderate scenarios rather than complete
inaction. A one-page analysis (two-pages in the case of health) is provided for each of the following priorities.

  1. Health
  2. Food security and nutrition
  3. Education
  4. Economy and unemployment
  5. Vulnerable groups
  6. Governance and enforcement

A decision tool is offered for scoring these components to represent the impact of lockdown or other measure on that policy priority, and weighting them to represent
the relative accordance afforded to e.g. health, the economy, and so on. This approach is customizable: items may be altered, added and subtracted from the list
of policy priorities.

While the report writers offer their own recommendations based on the rationale encapsulated in their one-page summaries, in the end these are of secondary importance. This document is meant to support rather than prescribe to policymakers, by enabling a decision process that makes implicit assumptions and valuejudgements clear.

Our primary recommendation is that this framework be adopted, adapted and used by policy-makers for both making decisions and communicating the rationale for decisions, especially (i) decisions to allow and prohibit particular behaviours at different lockdown levels and (ii) decisions to move from one level to another.

A Framework for Decisions in a Post-COVID World – South Africa – Report 1.0

Decision Tool SA 1.0


The Institute's strategy is to make virtues of the region's vices. It will capitalize on the acute local awareness of the need for social change, arising from obvious inequalities. This contrasts with the relative complacency of wealthier societies that might regard their technological achievements as affirming their social structures.

Central to the IFK's work will be the development of a general understanding of the nature of good prediction, in contrast to the expert-owned approach to prediction that dominates policy-making at present.

The weaknesses of the expert-led approach to prediction are illustrated dramatically in the discourse around COVID-19. Epidemiologists and public health advisors model the effects of "lockdown" on deaths caused by COVID-19, but initial policy was formulated without any corresponding modelling of downstream deaths caused by malnutrition and diseases of poverty which, in Africa, will inevitably follow deep recession. The episode has also illustrated the urgent need for African perspectives on international policy matters that centrally concern prediction.

Knowledge of the future is going to be a central concern in the future of knowledge, and the IFK will pull its activities and themes together under the umbrella of understanding the nature of good prediction, across domains of expertise and concern.


The Institute's activities will initially orbit around four themes:

  • Green Futures, led by Professor Brett Bennett
  • The Future of Health and Medicine, led by Professor Benjamin Smart
  • The Future of Religion, led by Dr Elina Hankela
  • Teaching and Learning for Tomorrow


Professor Alex Broadbent | | @alexbroadbent


Brett BennettDirector, Green Futures, and Associate Professor of History at UJ
ElinaHankelaDirector, Future of Religion, and Senior Lecturer of Religion Studies at UJ
AnthonyKazoboniResearch Coordinator
BenjaminSmartDirector of The Future of Health and Medicine, and Associate Professor of Philosophy, UJ
OluseunTellaSenior Researcher


Research Fellows and Associates

The Institute has appointed a number of research associates whose details will be available here shortly.

The Institute is establishing a Fellowship programme, with details to be released soon.