Published on
Jan 11, 2024

The article, “The anticipatory paradigm,” published on June 29, 2023, in AI Magazine by the authors, Dr. Dustin Dannenhauer, Dr. Adam Amos-Binks, and Dr. Leilani H. Gilpin suggests that “anticipatory thinking” is a necessary next step in the development of artificial intelligence.  The authors describe this as the ability of AI to acknowledge future unknowns beyond what existing data tells us, then identify, assess risks, and make a leap beyond the data.  

To describe the desired function, Dr. Dannenhauer, an AI scientist at Parallax Advanced Research, points to how humans attempt to anticipate the likelihood of future events, risks, and rewards associated with decision-making. He identifies three types of anticipatory thinking, “available anticipatory thinking,” “variant anticipatory thinking,” and “novel anticipatory thinking.” In available anticipatory thinking, humans draw conclusions from identified or identifiable data. For example, a homeowner uses historical data to estimate the value of home insurance based upon the home’s location. The home is in a geographic area where available information indicates there is very little risk, based upon historical data, of hurricanes.  

In the absence of accurate historical data, a homeowner may make a guess about the future that helps mitigate high impact risks, employing the capability Dr. Dannenhauer calls “variant anticipatory thinking.” For example, some homeowners in Atlantic Canada raised their houses on stilts prior to Hurricane Fiona despite no past evidence of flooding. They did this anticipating a possible danger with a high impact, despite the low probability, and were much better prepared for a storm that caused immense damages to their neighbors.

In novel anticipatory thinking, experts such as actuaries anticipate risks of entirely unprecedented events. An example includes insuring a home with a valuable view against “loss” of that view due to new types of environmental events affecting air quality.  

Dr. Dannenhauer and his coauthors argue that current AI platforms are poor at anticipating risks, and they call for research into variant and novel anticipatory thinking particularly. Applications in national defense are particularly important, where defense analysts need to mitigate risks from novel technologies and emergent social movements. By spending computational time reviewing low-probability scenarios, new technology for anticipatory thinking will help prepare us against significant future dangers that we haven’t imagined yet.  

The explanation and analogy the authors use is this: We live in an “open world,” where novel, unpredicted events happen all the time. For example, cell phones are ubiquitous today and affect every aspect of daily life but were completely unanticipated two hundred years ago. Throughout history, we’ve had massive exposure from these kinds of unknown future risks, but scientists like Dr. Dannenhauer are trying to change that, using computer power to imagine the unimaginable.


About Parallax Advanced Research

Parallax Advanced Research is a 501(c)(3) private nonprofit research institute that tackles global challenges through strategic partnerships with government, industry, and academia. It accelerates innovation, addresses critical global issues, and develops groundbreaking ideas with its partners. With offices in Ohio and Virginia, Parallax aims to deliver new solutions and speed them to market. In 2023, Parallax and the Ohio Aerospace Institute (OAI) formed a collaborative affiliation to drive innovation and technological advancements in Ohio and for the Nation. OAI plays a pivotal role in advancing the aerospace industry in Ohio and the nation by fostering collaborations between universities, aerospace industries, and government organizations and managing aerospace research, education, and workforce development projects. More information about both organizations can be found at and