December 13, 2012 - In the year 2030, Asia
will surpass North America and Europe
and become the global economic powerhouse it once was during the Middle Ages. Deaths from communicable disease will drop by 40 percent. The majority of the world's population won't be poor and among them will walk bionic superhumans with neuro-pharmaceuticals coursing through their veins.
These are just a very small fraction of the predictions made by the soothsayers over at the National Intelligence Council
(NIC), a US coalition of 17 government intelligence agencies. The NIC's prophecies were recently detailed in Global
Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds, a 140-page report that identifies "megatrends" expected
to emerge over the next 18 years and radically alter the world as we know it today. The report is the fifth installment of NIC's Global Trends series, which seeks to provide a proactive framework for thinking about the future.
"We are at a critical juncture in human history, which could lead to widely contrasting futures," writes Christopher Kojm, NIC chairman, in the report's introduction. "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."
Chief among the megatrends is the diffusion of power and individual empowerment. The West is set to take a back seat to Asia's economy as technology levels the playing field and other "non-Western or middle-tier states" begin to rise. The middle class is expected to expand in most countries, but won't feel secure due to the one billion workers from developing countries expected to flood the labor pool.
Global demographics are expected to shift as well. Life-expectancy rates are likely to soar, leading to an increase in global population from 7.1 billion today to around 8 billion in 2030. Much of this population will gravitate towards megacities as urbanization is set to grow by nearly 60 percent.
As population swells, so too will competition for resources. Demand for food is expected to rise 35 percent and energy 50 percent. Half the world will live in areas with severe water stress.
You see where this is going. As the global population becomes more intelligent, more healthy and more prosperous due to positive technological developments in a wide range of fields, it's creating a promising, yet vulnerable future. That's to say nothing of game-changing scenarios like nuclear war, pandemics and bioterrorism.
"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," writes Kojm.
Who those decisions-makers will be and whether they'll lead the globe into chaos or order, feast or famine, is anyone's guess. What's crystal clear, though, is that 2030 will be beyond our wildest imagination.
"As replacement limb technology advances, people may choose to enhance their physical selves as they do with cosmetic surgery today," the report states. "Future retinal eye implants could enable night vision, and neuro-enhancements could provide superior memory recall or speed of thought."