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Global Trends 2030: top report from US intelligence

January 14, 2013
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My inbox regularly receives the latest ‘global trends 20XX’ reports from thinktanks and futurologists, and a lot of them are pretty bland, and the scenarios they describe threadbare and unconvincing. The new ‘Global Trends 2030’ report from the US National Intelligence Council shares the usual flaws on its scenarios, and is understandably US-centric (the NIC is a US government body), but its description of trends feels spot on, albeit a bit cursory on climate change. In Rumsfeldian terms, it summarizes the known knowns – ‘megatrends’, reflecting underlying ‘tectonic shifts’, but adds in a discussion of known unknowns, both long-term processes  – ‘game changers’,  and (mainly negative) discrete events – ‘black swans’. But you can be pretty sure that Rumsfeld’s final category, unknown unknowns, will mess up this nice arrangement. Here are some of its summary tables:

Megatrends and Game Changers

NIC1

Tectonic Shifts

NIC2

Black Swans

NIC3


The most novel aspect for me was the focus on the political implications of demographic transitions – NIC reckons aging populations will encourage liberalization and democracy, and reduce levels of conflict. Plausible given the age range of most fighters, but a bit reductionist?

1 comment

  1. Yep, reductionist.

    Egypt for example is credited with experiencing a revolution at least partly owing to a large, young population. That meant increased liberalization and democracy (jury’s still out on that, but let’s say it’s a step in the right direction for now) and increased violence went along with a young population. Maybe an older population would have meant reduced violence and limited liberalization and democracy? And if so, why would those trends be an exception to the rule, instead of being the rule?

    Seems pretty arbitrary to me.

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