Four futures for 2030

An interesting futures example, “Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds” (National Intelligence Council) sketches out some geopolitical directions.

It begins by identifying a set of drivers, or “Megatrends”.  These include: increased individual empowerment; diffusion of global power (decline of US unipolarity); certain demographics (some countries age extensively, while there are also , “a still-significant but shrinking number of youthful societies and states”; growing urbanization; a potential resource crisis (the “food, water, and energy nexus”).

The authors also mention a bunch of “game changers”, problems which could also warp things: governance problems, economic fragility, rise of conflict, regional instability, new technology.

Using these drivers and selected game changers, the report presents four scenarios.

  • Stalled Engines. The bad one: “Under this scenario, the eurozone unravels quickly, causing Europe to be mired in recession. The US energy revolution fails to materialize, dimming prospects for an economic recovery… global economic growth falters and all players do relatively poorly”.
  • Fusion, the happiest, in some ways: “With the growing collaboration among the major powers, global multilateral institutions are reformed and made more inclusive. In this scenario, all boats rise substantially.”
  • Gini Out-of-the-Bottle.  That’s “Gini” as in the famous inequality coefficient.  Economic inequality booms, and “the lack of societal cohesion domestically is mirrored at the international level. Major powers are at odds; the potential for conficts rises. More countries fail, fueled in part by the dearth of international cooperation on assistance and development. In sum, the world is reasonably wealthy,but it is less secure as the dark side of globalizationposes an increasing challenge in domestic and international politics”.
  • Nonstate World.  The decline of states and their replacement: “Formal governance institutions that do not adapt to the more diverse and widespread distribution of power are also less likely to be successful. Multinational businesses, IT communications firms, international scientists, NGOs,and others that are used to cooperating across borders and as part of networks thrive in this hyper-globalized world where expertise, influence, and agility count for more than “weight” or “position.””.

In comparing US outcomes, the team offered this intriguing view of what national GDP might look like as a proportion of global output.  Note which scenario is best for that condition:

US GDP as portion of global, broken down by scenarios.

Also in this project: a nice set of black swans, and a group blog for surfacing ideas..

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