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Where are the flying cars? I was promised flying cars. I don't see any flying cars!
December 11, 2012 11:26 PM   Subscribe

Global Trends 2030 Alternate Worlds is the latest quadrennial report from The US National Intelligence Council (NIC). (Report: PDF / Talking Points: PDF.) Similar to its predecessors, '2030' attempts to predict 'alternate visions of the future.' An official blog discusses their speculations. The Atlantic Council has published a "companion publication": "Envisioning 2030: US Strategy for a Post-Western World."

Among the predictions:
* Global population to reach 8.3bn people
* 60% of the world population living in urban environments
* Resource (especially food, water, energy) demand and scarcity to increase
* Poverty to decline
* US energy independence
* US, European and Japanese share of global income to drop from 56% today to well under half by 2030
* A decline of US influence internationally
* A rise of Asian international and economic influence, especially from China.
* No hegemonic power
* Increase in global migration as aging populations in both rich and developing countries trigger workforce shortages
* Nearly half the world population to suffer "severe water stress"
* Various technological advances in medicine and human augmentation
* The future of IT in 2030

For the last two days, the Atlantic Council has conducted a conference on the NIC report. The event has ended, but a small video archive of some of the speakers / presentations is available.

Media Coverage (You may sense a recurring motif here....)
Wired: U.S. Spies See Superhumans, Instant Cities by 2030
Network World, Privacy and Security Fanatic Blog: Intelligence report predicts IT in 2030, a world of cyborgs with Asia as top power
The Escapist: US Intelligence Body Reveals Cyborg-Infested Vision of Year 2030
posted by zarq (21 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
Very interesting. I'll come back to this after digging through the post. I'd add a tag for UnitedStates however, since this is all from their national state/defence perspective.
posted by infini at 11:36 PM on December 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Previously
posted by armoir from antproof case at 11:40 PM on December 11, 2012


Is that a previously?
posted by infini at 11:52 PM on December 11, 2012


Conclusion: we're all fucked, we're just not sure if the future will be Mad Max or R Talstoran/2000AD style warzone.
(Lazy link to a Gawker summary, for the short attention-spanners or busy folks like me).

Club of Rome's Limits to Growth reckons we are at a tipping point for population, among other things.
posted by Mezentian at 11:55 PM on December 11, 2012


To quote Butch Cassidy, who are these guys ?

The document says they have been going since 1996. Did they predict Twitter, or Facebook, or the Arab Spring, or the Chinese investment in Africa, anything else that has actually come true in the last 16 years ?
posted by devious truculent and unreliable at 3:11 AM on December 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Global Trend 2015(PDF) seems to be the oldest, prepared in 2000 - there was a GT2010, but it isn't online.
I found it by reading the links.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:42 AM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Futurist is the best job in the world.
You just make wild claims, and people pay you. They may laugh later. Who knows?
I seem to recall British Telecom used to do a nice line in it. This might be it.

Did they predict Twitter, or Facebook, or the Arab Spring, or the Chinese investment in Africa, anything else that has actually come true in the last 16 years ?

I doubt they predicted Twitter or Facebook. Who would? But I wouldn't be surprised if they tipped an Arab Spring at some point (the region has been a demographic timebomb for decades) and the Chinese investment into Africa has been going on for long enough: I'd bet yes.
For one thing, China doesn't care who they do business with. Whether they tipped the insane speed with which China has embraced the world: who knows?
But would any rational person predict the ghost cities?
posted by Mezentian at 4:49 AM on December 12, 2012


Previously

On Slashdot?

To quote Butch Cassidy, who are these guys ?

The document says they have been going since 1996. Did they predict Twitter, or Facebook, or the Arab Spring, or the Chinese investment in Africa, anything else that has actually come true in the last 16 years ?


The NIC is a US government body operating under the CIA which was formed in 1979. They're tasked with short and long term strategic analysis for the US intelligence community. Since 1996, they've released these reports every 4 years, at the end of election years. The intended audience is the US intelligence community, incoming (or incumbent) president, and the US Director of National Intelligence. Each report is an attempt to predict how the world will change over a 15 year period by examining current trends.

They're not claiming to be psychic or have all the answers to what the world will look like a decade and a half from now. In each report they clearly say that their fictional depicted scenarios are not actual forecasts. But they do take many factors into consideration and try to predict what they believe are likely scenarios depending on how various trends play out. The latest discusses the unpredictability of black swan events, as well.

Many of the predictions in this report were originally made previous ones, but now seem a bit more fine-tuned with new information. I believe they predicted greater democratization and pluralism in the Middle East a couple of reports ago, but I could be wrong.
posted by zarq at 5:19 AM on December 12, 2012


there was a GT2010, but it isn't online.

2010 report is on scribd.
posted by zarq at 5:23 AM on December 12, 2012


* Resource (especially food, water, energy) demand and scarcity to increase
* Poverty to decline
* Nearly half the world population to suffer "severe water stress"


One of these three is not like the others.
posted by eviemath at 6:59 AM on December 12, 2012


One of these three is not like the others.

No, they actually all are part of a package. As global living standards rise, demand for resources also rises.
posted by Sangermaine at 8:01 AM on December 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


As I always like to point out when it comes up, we already have flying cars. As the great @GreatDismal famously said, "The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed."
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:03 AM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


According to this map, it looks like Middle East and Southeast Asia will be exceptionally more-fucked, while the central western US and western US will be severely to extremely more-fucked.
posted by slogger at 9:08 AM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


A couple of things - South East Asia is technically the ASEAN nations and not whatever the map above is referring to, which is North, Central and East.

And perhaps its time to tweak Great Dismal's prediction a tad,

The future that will be here is shuffling its distribution.
posted by infini at 12:39 PM on December 12, 2012


Criticising these people for failing to foresee every significant event is to dismiss forecasting entirely. Is there any point at all to consider some future scenarios based on synthesising current data trends? Of course there is. It is inevitably a bit of a wank, but that can't be helped

I'm only part way through the report but I find it fascinating. The "black swan" of more rapid climate change , #2 on the list on pg 16 I think is the most likely of those disruptive events, and I think the analysis of impacts on food, pp31-34 are under-done. This is particularly highlighted by the very next section considering energy independence due to unconventional gas in the US. As if the world can afford those emissions. And they've completely missed the likely re-emergence of nuclear power.

The US' loss of prestige and status is something that I find reflected even here on Metafilter all the time, constant angsting about the rise of China. This is something that you will all grow to accept in time.


Partly by conscious choice but mostly due to the luck of being born a white middle-class Australian, I'm setting myself and my family largely outside these events, as spectators, largely self-sufficient and in a rural area. So, interesting times, I wish you well.
posted by wilful at 4:12 PM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


According to this map, it looks like Middle East and Southeast Asia will be exceptionally more-fucked, while the central western US and western US will be severely to extremely more-fucked.

That's the best, most concise weather report since Scarlet Johannson did the weather.
posted by Mezentian at 7:04 PM on December 12, 2012


I guess we assumed a different order of events. Decreasing poverty could lead to increasing use of finite resources, which then leads to food, water, and energy scarcity. I was looking at it from the viewpoint of not having enough food and water would tautologically mean living in poverty; therefore increases in the number of people experiencing food and water scarcity means increases in poverty. That seems to be the long-term result implied by these predictions, in either case.
posted by eviemath at 5:47 AM on December 13, 2012


But to get to that inflexion point it requires increasing numbers of people in the very near future being able to afford and thus aspire to owning all these consumables thus leading to the increasing scarcity and then the overall "poverty" but by 2030 the upward curve should still be showing. This shift has already begun if you look at what's happening in the OECD vs what's happening in Africa and Asia and Latin America, particularly wrt those emerging middle classes in the middle of hte predictions list.
posted by infini at 7:45 AM on December 13, 2012


Ok. But if we have, at the same time, increases in food and water scarcity, what does that look like demographically? It seems to me that would imply that, of the population currently living in poverty, some proportion of them will move out of poverty (without replacement numbers sinking into poverty); but that the rest will experience a severe degradation in their living conditions, moving from a situation of poor but marginally getting by on the food and water fronts with some minor malnutrition and clean water issues, to starvation and severe water crisis? (Maybe they deal with this in the article... I should go read the article before commenting any more....)
posted by eviemath at 5:04 PM on December 13, 2012


China is the elephant in the situation room : "China is mentioned more than 300 times in the report, and the NIC’s assertion that “the US-China relationship is perhaps the most important bilateral tie shaping the future” is dead on (though I’d cut the word “perhaps”). But despite China’s implicit impact on the report, the NIC doesn’t establish it as the twin pillar alongside the multipolar world it vividly describes. Nor do we get a full sense of how a host of negative China surprises could fundamentally alter the world of 2030 as we imagine it.

A look at each subsection of the NIC report demonstrates just how critical China’s development is — or should be — in its calculus."
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:37 AM on December 25, 2012


Just how bad is corruption in China?
This paper compares corruption in China over the past 15 years with corruption in the U.S. between 1870 and 1930, periods that are roughly comparable in terms of real income per capita. Corruption indicators for both countries and both periods are constructed by tracking corruption news in prominent U.S. newspapers. Several robustness checks confirm the reliability of the constructed corruption indices for both countries. The comparison indicates that corruption in the U.S. in the early 1870s — when it's real income per capita was about $2,800 (in 2005 dollars) — was 7 to 9 times higher than China's corruption level in 1996, the corresponding year in terms of income per capita. By the time the U.S. reached $7,500 in 1928 — approximately equivalent to China's real income per capita in 2009 — corruption was similar in both countries. The findings imply that, while corruption in China is an issue that merits attention, it is not at alarmingly high levels, compared to the U.S. historical experience. The paper further argues that the corruption and development experiences of both the U.S. and China appear to be consistent with the "life-cycle" theory of corruption — rising at the early stages of development, and declining after modernization has taken place. Hence, as China continues its development process, corruption will likely decline.
-U.S. Intelligence Agencies See a Different World in 2030
-State versus the individual in tomorrow's world
-Human Versus Physical Capital [1,2,3]
posted by kliuless at 1:10 PM on December 27, 2012


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