What will the world look like in 2025? The collective wisdom of the U.S. intelligence community has some ideas in, Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World.
I find the use of “transformed” rather than “transforming” noteworthy. There’s an inherent supposition that a lot of fundamental shifts will have already occurred, and indeed that is what the report projects. Projects rather than predicts because the report seeks not to be a crystal ball but rather a forecast of the natural progression of preexisting trends. However, the transformations that happen can be as much a result of inaction as action (i.e. on energy).
I had the misfortune of nearly falling asleep pleasure of hearing the National Intelligence Council chairman give a preliminary overview two weeks ago and have been eagerly awaiting the release ever since. If you don’t feel like reading the entire 100+ pages, the executive summary is at least worth a glance. (However, if you go that route, you’ll miss the four campy “fictional” scenarios they created to illustrate key points, including a diary entry from the U.S. prez in 2025 and an absurdly colloquial letter from the Russian leader to him…I have no idea what value they thought these added, I find them all silly). If you don’t even feel like reading the summary, I’ll recreate the high points here.
We start with a list of what are termed “relative certainties.” The rest of the report is spent on gaming how different responses to these certainties about what the world will look like could impact the U.S., various other key countries, and global stability more generally. Of note, with my own little commentary following…
- A global multipolar system is emerging with China and India on the risealong with an increase in the relative power of nonstate actors — Play a sad little tune for the demise of a nation-state based international community
- Unprecedented shift in relative wealth from West to East — Upside: diversification means we all have a stake in maintaining geopolitical stability so as not to upset the apple cart. Downside: countries that might not always like us and who are following an alternative path to development (Russia, China) have the $$$ (and thus, influence) to back up their worldview
- U.S. will remain single most powerful country but with relative power and dominance in decline — Taking the flag pin off my lapel (oh, wait, I’m a Democrat so I can’t have one :P) and looking at it from a global sense, there are certainly arguments to be made for the stability of an international order led by one power…and an equal number of arguments against, neither being made here right now. Regardless, it’s a huge shift.
- Continued economic growth will strain resources (energy, food, water) — Development in rising nations will lift millions out of abject poverty and into something approaching middle class, putting an enormous (unsustainable?) demand on the most basic resources. Long story short, technology is the only answer here, so we need to get on that.
- The appeal of terrorism could decrease over time if development continues and economic growth spreads to the Middle East — Or the point above could lead to backlash against immigrants in the West fueling cultural divides, petro-states could neglect the opportunity to promote other industries and face massive problems with a global shift to alternative energies, and what attacks do occur could be on a massive scale as technology diffuses along with basically everything else in the globalized world. Really more questions than answers on the points relating to conflict/peace.
The key to how all of these issues play out rests entirely in how quickly and cohesively the world recognizes and addresses them. The report envisions what different trajectories, action, inaction, competitive action, etc., could mean for the U.S., the world, and individual countries that are more affected by this or that concern (geographically, demographically, economically, or otherwise). That sort of “choose your own adventure” exercise is exactly what gets my little mind going.