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RAN clearance divers training in Hawaii
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many people work from the “inside out” in reading
these studies, starting first with those issued by
their national governments or their intelligence and
defence agencies, then perhaps those of countries
they are allied with, then outward from there.
A VIEW FROM THE EASTERN PACIFIC
In the United States, the plethora of future-looking
publications one might look at is literally overwhelming.
National government, national defense, industry, think
tanks, individuals and a host of others are free to
“hold forth” on what the future might hold. For many
of us in the States it comes down to separating
the “wheat from the chaff,” and picking just one
publication that subsumes the work of many others
and which presents an omnibus and thoughtful view
of the future security environment. For me, and for
many colleagues, that publication is Global Trends
2030: Alternative Worlds.
Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds, in
shorthand GT2030, is a publication of the United
States’ National Intelligence Council (NIC). The NIC,
pulling together the collective resources of 16 U.S .
intelligence agencies, published this report in order
to identify global trends that have a major impact on
our world, While there are many fine publications that
look at future trends, for my money, GT2030 does
this better and more comprehensively than anyone
else. And this is an important time to leverage this
analysis. The Chairman of the NIC puts it this way:
We are at a critical juncture in human history,
which could lead to widely contrasting futures. It
is our contention that the future is not set in stone,
but is malleable, the result of an interplay among
megatrends, game-changers and, above all, human
agency. Our effort is to encourage decision makers—
whether in government or outside—to think and plan
for the long term so that negative futures do not occur
and positive ones have a better chance of unfolding.
To better understand this document, it is worth
spending a moment sharing a bit about the U.S.
National Intelligence Council. The U.S . NIC
represents the primary way the U.S . Intelligence
Community communicates in the unclassified realm.
The NIC now works directly for the U.S . Director
of National Intelligence and presents the collective
research and analysis of the entire U.S. Intelligence
Community comprising 16 agencies.
Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds is far
more than a “United States-focused” publication.
This fifth iteration (the publication is issued every
four years) was widely vetted internationally. A blog
site was established and comment was invited. The
blog was viewed in 167 different countries. This
is truly an international
publication rather than
a United States-only
document. It has one
primary goal, to help us
think about the future
and make it far less
uncertain than it is
That’s precisely what
Global Trends 2030
helps us to do – make
an uncertain future less
does not attempt to
“predict” the future.
This is crucial, because
many so-called “strategic thinkers” and organizations
contend that they can do just that – and do it better
than anyone else. Sadly, they cannot. The purpose of
GT2030 is to cause us to think about the future for
all the reasons, as John Maynard Keynes suggested
over seven decades ago, we typically choose not to.
The first paragraph of GT2030’s Executive Summary
describes what this report does do:
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.
The GT2030 report begins by describing
megatrends and tectonic shifts, those factors that
will likely occur under any future scenario. It then
addresses game-changers, those critical variables
whose trajectories are far less certain but which
could impact world events in profound ways. Finally,
acknowledging the diversity and complexity of various
factors that can impact megatrends, GT2030 has
gone beyond what the NIC provided in previous
reports and gives increased attention to scenarios or
alternative worlds we might face.
It is worth pausing to look at a “bottom line
up front,” regarding what GT2030 says about
future trends, shifts, potential game-changers and
plausible alternative security futures. Importantly,
this comprehensive, 160-page report performs an
admirable “deep dive” into each of these areas.
GT2030 presents a detailed analysis and as well
as a “bottom line up front.”
GT2030 makes several major projections. First
among them, and of keen interest to the Asia-Pacific
region, is that China's economy will overtake that of
the United States in the 2020's. Having said that,
GT2030 also stipulates that China will not challenge
United States' preeminence or the international order.
A key finding of this analysis is that Asia will become
more powerful than both North America and Europe
combined. GT2030 also notes that the United States
will achieve energy independence with shale gas,
perhaps as early as 2020. A darker projection is that
wider access to disruptive technologies – including
precision-strike capabilities, cyber instruments, and
bioterror weaponry – could increase the risk of large-
scale violence and disruption.
As noted above, this report first lists four
megatrends, "relative certainties", which are expected
to shape the world out to 2030. These exist today but
Global Trends 2030 suggests that during the next
15-20 years they will gain much greater momentum
becoming the governing trends that change our
world and shape it as we move towards 2030 – and
beyond. These four megatrends are:
Individual empowerment will accelerate substantially
during the next 15-20 years owing to the worldwide
reduction of poverty and a huge growth of the
global middle class. This will be accelerated through
greater educational attainment and better health
Here in the Asia-Pacific region, many nations look
to the future and share their findings in open-source
publications issued by their national governments.
Credit: USAF / Kamaile O. Long
2/05/13 3:51 PM
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