Overview: According to policymakers in the US, EU, Russia, and NATO, trends may bend in many potential directions, ranging from the rise of technologically empowered individuals; to an aging, more crowded, urbanized, and resource-stressed planet; to a more equal, interdependent, and interconnected borderless citizenry; or to a competitive stage where once developing nation-states will increasingly co-define the contours of a no less divided globe. In the end, though, some future worlds may be freer than others. Some less just. Others possibly more peaceful, and still others more diverse. We must work toward a logic of one world to understand what will be possible, impossible, and necessary. The ethical choice for us then will be to determine what degree of our values we can achieve not only in the next fifteen years, but also, as we have in the past, for the longer future of humanity to come.
“It will all be fine,” Candide replied. “The sea of this new world is already better than any of the seas of Europe. This sea is calmer, and the winds more constant. It is certainly this new world that is the best of all possible worlds.”
—Voltaire, Candide, or, Optimism
What will our future world be like in the next fifteen to twenty years? At the end of 2012, the US National Intelligence Council (NIC) released “Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds,” the fifth installment of a series that aims to provide a framework for thinking about future policy planning. It describes the megatrends, game-changers, and four potential worlds that we will likely face. Such accounts raise a fundamental question: how do you tell a story that has not yet happened? Anyone can make up a story, but the worth of forecasting should lay less in surface lessons and assertions than it should in how analysts are able to tell a credible story that will allow policymakers to make decisions about the future today.
I suggest that trends should only be important insofar as they affect our values and that such stories should be viewed more critically due to their limited consideration of ethics. My concern is less about the reports themselves, whose findings are approximations of the thoughts of individuals in civil society, academia, businesses, nongovernmental organizations, and states existing in the world today. Rather, the content of the future world and the texture of our values themselves are the most important considerations for individuals, communities, organizations, and states to think about when choosing—to the extent that we can—what should be the quality of our future lives and livelihoods.
Global Trends 2030
The NIC as well as other organizations in the European Union (EU), Russia, and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) have conducted such reports about global trends and the future world of 2030. Policy planners in the US foresaw a series of individual-, society-, state-, and global-level megatrends. The empowerment of the individual at a scale never before experienced will be the most prominent trend of the future. Technological innovations in information, automation, manufacturing, resource management, and health will be the primary causes of this megatrend. The second megatrend will be demographic shifts of a growing global middle class, increased urbanization, more migration, and aging populations across societies. As the world’s population reaches over 8 billion people, a third megatrend will challenge societies to face stresses on the availability of food, water, and energy. The final US-envisioned megatrend will be the diffusion of power between states (e.g., a relative decline of the West and a more powerful China and India) as well as the changing nature of power (i.e., soft power will be more important than military power, and individuals and regional governments will have more of a direct influence in world politics).
EU forecasters foresaw many of these same megatrends, however, the character of these trends took on a more ambitious tone. People across the globe will be more educated, healthier, more equal in terms of gender, and in general they will enjoy more human rights. Individuals will be more empowered through the recognition of multiple nonconflicting identities at local, national, regional, and global levels. Thus, individuals will be empowered in such a way that they will not only pursue their own self-interested ends, but they will also become global citizens who will be able to share the values of an interconnected community wherein governance within states and of the globe will become more democratic.
Experts in Russia also saw the world as becoming more democratic than today but less democratic, individually-driven, and egalitarian than either of its US and EU counterparts. The nature of power will not change as foreseen by the American planners, and states will be the main actors overseeing a hierarchical world still led by the US, but influenced more in rank order first by the EU and China, second by Russia, and finally by Brazil, India, and today’s other rising middle powers.
NATO policy planners also saw the nature of power as constant and predicted that states would remain the main source of power. However, NATO focused on trends that were much more conflict-ridden than the other reports. Although some individuals may be empowered, they will represent threats to the state in the form of hackers, terrorists, and criminals. The greatest structural changes in the future will relate to more friction between people, states, regions, ideologies, and worldviews; increasing integration of economies for some parts of developed and middle-income countries, but not the poorest developing countries; and more asymmetry among states, leading to more inequality and conflicts between rich and poor countries and between the poor themselves. Unlike the EU vision, humanity will not achieve one shared, cooperative, and global community.
to read more check it out here:
Of All Possible Future Worlds: Global Trends, Values, and Ethics is a free e-book that asks, “What will our world be like in the next fifteen to twenty years?”
You can download the e-book or read it for free at www.possiblefutureworlds.com .
It is now also a free online course. The first part is available at http://prezi.com/seh7prqsbgur/possible-future-worlds-part-1 and the video introduction is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WKKheYhVEyM .
* image from http://future.wikia.com/wiki/RyansWorld:_New_York_City