Every four or five years, the US National Intelligence Council (NIC) publishes a Global Trends report. And now Global Trends 2030 has just been released. A short (5-page) briefing can be found here. The longer (160-page) report can be downloaded in pdf, iPad and Kindle formats here.
The executive summary describes the NIC’s goals for this massive effort:
“This report is intended to stimulate thinking about the rapid and vast geopolitical changes characterizing the world today and possible global trajectories during the next 15-20 years. As with the NIC’s previous Global Trends reports, we do not seek to predict the future—which would be an impossible feat—but instead provide a framework for thinking about possible futures and their implications.”
Since the mid-1990s I’ve studied these Global Trends reports carefully, using them to ground myself about changes I see in the economy, the legal industry, and my personal investment options. Below are my very quick Cliffs Notes on this latest report.
The global megatrends (relative certainties) presented and discussed in the 2030 report include:
· Rapidly expanding middle class (for the first time, most of world’s population aren’t in poverty)
· Life expectancy increases rapidly, with deaths from communicable diseases dropping more than 40%
· Religious, ethnic and national identities are strengthened
· More technological breakthroughs in information, communication, manufacturing, healthcare, warcraft are great levelers for good and evil
· Individuals and states experience greater stress levels
Diffusion of power
· Asia surpasses North America and Europe in global economic power
· Power/impact of Europe, Japan and Russia lessens
· No global hegemonic political power remains – regional conflicts and regional partnerships are both possible
· World population becomes increasingly urbanized (from 50% to 60%), and urban construction explodes
· Economic growth may decline in demographically aging countries
· Youthful countries are politically unstable (the “demographic arc of instability”)
· Global migration and immigration increases
Food, water, energy nexus
· Huge increases in demand for food (35%), water (40%) and energy (50%)
· Addressing demands for each of these commodities is linked to supply and demand for the others
· Severe weather patterns intensify – wet areas get wetter, dry areas get drier
Critical Game Changers
The report posits six critical variables whose trajectories are far less certain and are subject to control by state and non-state actors:
1. Crisis-prone global economy - Will divergences and increased volatility result in more global breakdown? Or will the development of multiple growth centers lead to increased resiliency?
2. Governance gap - Will current forms of governance and international institutions be able to adapt fast enough to harness and channel change instead of being overwhelmed by it?
3. Potential for increased conflict - Will rapid changes and shifts in power lead to conflicts?
4. Wider scope of regional instability - Will regional instability, especially in the Middle East and South Asia, spill over and create global insecurity?
5. Impact of new technologies - Will technological breakthroughs occur in time to solve the problems caused by rapid urbanization, strain on natural resources, and climate change?
6. Role of the United States - Will the US, as the leading actor on the world stage and with its new energy independence, be able to reinvent the international system, carving out potential new roles in an expanded world order?
Four Alternative Worlds / Scenarios
Like the preceding global trends reports, the 2030 report includes four different global 15-to-20-year scenarios for use by organizations that engage in scenario planning. The four Alternative Worlds posited are:
1. Stalled Engines – In the most plausible worst-case scenario, the risks of interstate conflict increase. A pandemic hits, the US draws inward, and globalization stalls.
2. Fusion – In the most plausible best-case outcome, China and the US collaborate on a range of issues, leading to broader global cooperation.
3. Gini-Out-of-the-Bottle – Inequalities explode as some countries become big winners and others fail. Inequalities within countries increase social tensions. Without completely disengaging, the US is no longer the “global policeman.”
4. Nonstate World – Driven by new technologies, nonstate actors take the lead in confronting global challenges.
I know how full the days (and nights) of law firm CI professionals can be. However, I hope you will find time to explore this new report. I also hope some of you will comment about it. I’ll soon be posting more here about 16 disruptive technologies, 8 possible black swan events, and other topics discussed in the Global Trends 2030 report.