Instead, the report says, power will shift to “networks and coalitions in a multipolar world.”
This development, the report finds, will largely reverse the historic rise of the West since 1750, “restoring Asia’s weight in the global economy and ushering in a new era of ‘democratization’ at the international and domestic level.”
The report further expects the rapid aging of the world population to continue as well as a growing demand on resources, which might lead to scarcities of food and water.
The key “looming” challenges that our reviewers cited for GT 2030 were to develop:
A better grasp of time and speed. Past Global Trends works, “correctly foresaw the direction of the vectors: China up, Russia down. But China’s power has consistently increased faster than expected . . . A comprehensive reading of the four reports leaves a strong impression that [we] tend toward underestimation of the rates of change . . . ”
Greater discussion of crises and discontinuities. The use of the word “trends’ in the titles suggests more continuity than change. GT 2025, however, “with its strongly worded attention to the likelihood of significant shocks and discontinuities, flirts with a radical revision of this viewpoint.” The authors recommended developing a framework for understanding the relationships among trends, discontinuities, and crises.
Greater attention to ideology. The authors of the study admitted that “ideology is a frustratingly fuzzy concept . . . difficult to define..and equally difficult to measure.” They admitted that grand “isms” like fascism and communism might not be on the horizon. However, “smaller politico-pycho-social shifts that often don’t go under the umbrella of ideology but drive behavior” should be a focus.
More understanding of second- and third-order consequences. Trying to identify looming disequilibria may be one approach. More war-gaming or simulation exercises to understand possible dynamics among international actors at crucial tipping points was another suggestion. We will let our readers judge how well we met the above challenges in this volume.
The report looks at plausible worst-case and best-case scenarios over the next two decades.
In the worst-case category, it sees the risk of interstate conflict increasing and the U.S. “draws inward and globalization stalls.”
In the best-case scenario, China and the U.S. collaborate on a range of issues, leading to a broader global cooperation.
Game-changer 5: The Impact of new Technologies
Four technology [Info technology, new manufacturing and automation, technology related to resources and health technology] arenas will shape global economic,social, and military developments as well as the world community’s actions pertaining to the environment by 2030.
Information technology is entering the big data era. Process power and data storage are becoming almost free; networks and the cloud will provide global access and pervasive services; social media and cybersecurity will be large new markets. This growth and diffusion will present significant challenges for governments and societies, which must find ways to capture the benefits of new IT technologies while dealing with the new threats that those technologies present. Fear of the growth of an Orwellian surveillance state may lead citizens particularly in the developed world to pressure their governments to restrict or dismantle big data systems. Information technology-based solutions to maximize citizens’ economic productivity and quality of life while minimizing resource consumption and environmental degradation will be critical to ensuring the viability of megacities. Some of the world’s future megacities will essentially be built from scratch,enabling a blank-slate approach to infrastructure design and implementation that could allow for the most effective possible deployment of new urban technologies—or create urban nightmares, if such new technologies are not deployed effectively.
New manufacturing and automation technologies such as additive manufacturing (3D printing) and robotics have the potential to change work patterns in both the developing and developed worlds. In developed countries these technologies will improve productivity, address labor constraints, and diminish the need for outsourcing, especially if reducing the length of supply chains brings clear benefits.Nevertheless, such technologies could still have a similar effect as outsourcing: they could make more low- and semi-skilled manufacturing workers in developed economies redundant, exacerbating domestic inequalities. For developing economies,particularly Asian ones, the new technologies will stimulate new manufacturing capabilities and further increase the competitiveness of Asian manufacturers and suppliers.
Breakthroughs, especially for technologies pertaining to the security of vital resources —will be necessary to meet the food, water, and energy needs of the world’s population. Key technologies likely to be at the forefront of maintaining such resources in the next 15-20 years will include genetically modified crops, precision agriculture, water irrigation techniques, solar energy, advanced bio-based fuels, and enhanced oil and natural gas extraction via fracturing. Given the vulnerabilities of developing economies to key resource supplies and prices and the early impacts of climate change, key developing countries may realize substantial rewards in commercializing many next-generation resource technologies first. Aside from being cost competitive, any expansion or adoption of both existing and next-generation resource technologies over the next 20 years will largely depend on social acceptance and the direction and resolution of any ensuing political issues.
Last but not least, new health technologies will continue to extend the average age of populations around the world, by ameliorating debilitating physical and mental conditions and improving overall well-being. The greatest gains in healthy longevity are likely to occur in those countries with developing economies as the size of their middle class populations swells. The health-care systems in these countries may be poor today, but by 2030 they will make substantial progress in the longevity potential of their populations; by 2030 many leading centers of innovation in disease management will be in the developing world.
We have created four scenarios that represent distinct pathways for the world out to 2030: Stalled Engines, Fusion, Gini Out-of-the-Bottle, and Nonstate World.
—a scenario in which the risk of interstate conflict rise owing to a new “great game” in Asia—was chosen as one of the book-ends, illustrating the most plausible “worst case.” Arguably, darker scenarios are imaginable, including a complete breakdown and reversal of globalization due potentially to a large scale conflict on the order of a World War I or World War II, but such outcomes do not seem probable.
Fusion (of China and the USA and growing world economy)
Fusion is the other book end, describing what we see as the most plausible “best case.” This is a world in which the specter of a spreading conflict in South Asia triggers efforts by the US, Europe, and China to intervene and impose a ceasefire. China, the US, and Europe find other issues to collaborate on, leading to a major positive change in their bilateral relations,and more broadly leading to worldwide cooperation to deal with global challenges.
In this scenario, all boats rise substantially. Emerging economies continue to grow faster, but GDP growth in advanced economies also picks up. The global economy nearly doubles in real terms by 2030 to $132 trillion in today’s dollars. The American Dream returns with per capita incomes rising $10,000 in ten years. Chinese per capita income also expands.
This is a world of extremes. Within many countries,inequalities dominate—leading to increasing political and social tensions. Between countries, there are clear-cut winners and losers. For example, countries in the euro zone core which are globally competitive do well, while others on the periphery are forced to leave the EU. The EU single market barely functions. The US remains the preeminent power as it gains energy independence. World economic growth is in between the first two scenarios.
Cities in China’s coastal zone continue to thrive, but inequalities increase and split the Party.Social discontent spikes as middle-class expectations are not met except for the very “well-connected.
In this world, nonstate actors—nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), multinational businesses,academic institutions, and wealthy individuals—as well as subnational units (megacities, for example), flourish and take the lead in confronting global challenges. An increasing global public opinion consensus among elites and many of the growing middle classes on major global challenges—poverty, the environment,anti-corruption, rule-of-law, and peace—form the base of their support. The nation-state does not disappear,but countries increasingly organize and orchestrate“hybrid” coalitions o state and nonstate actors which shift depending on the issue
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.