"Let your downhills carry you uphill."

Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds


The US National Intelligence Council has released a new report on what the world is going to look like in 2030. Obviously this is more of a publicity document than anything, but it’s interesting to see how the US NIC has chosen to portray the world. It’s some strange combination of World War I-era “balance of power” statecraft, Francis Fukuyama end-of-history upward climb towards US-style institutions everywhere, and a view of technological progress that makes it sound like technology is something that gets arbitrarily delivered to Earth via meteorite than something that evolves along with culture and economy.

But anyway. The full document is pretty much novel length and it has lots of pretty maps and graphs and so on. Some highlights:

  • The report not only projects massively slower growth for China than anyone else (including the investor consensus) but also presents a new index of global power that (unlike the previously-used one) shows the US more powerful than China until about 2050. This is kind of charming but not super persuasive.
  • The report includes a list of Black Swans - situations that seem super unlikely but could have a really big impact? You might as well read these yourself as they range from totally reasonable (euro collapse) to bizarrely ideological (China as an electoral democracy) to the totally unforeseeable (global pandemic killing everyone). 
  • My absolute favourite part is near the end where the report starts to go totally off the rails and imagines future news dispatches or diary entries or whatever that represent possible future scenarios. Possibly the best is the Marxist insurgency one. These all read like Huntington-style ~clashes of civilizations~ which, you know, never not racist.

Anyway if you’d like to see how the US sees the world in 2030 (or how they want you to see them seeing the world in 2030, anyway) it’s pretty effing fascinating.

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