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More Thoughts on the Future of the World

Saturday, December 15, 2012 at 9:31 AM

Earlier this week, I posted a short note about the National Intelligence Council and its projection of alternate futures for the year 2030.  While I would never say the work was derivative :-), I should have noted that it bears a thematic similarity to an earlier recent book from the Bertlesmann Foundation, “Megatrends in Global Interaction.”  As the book is described:

We inhabit an increasingly interconnected world, yet too often policymakers and advisors view each issue in a vacuum, focusing primarily on short-term impacts. All of us – policymakers, citizens, and local and global communities – must begin to consider how the major trends that shape our world are likely to develop, and how they will intersect and influence one another.

This volume is designed to explore and discuss correlations between these global trends, or megatrends: Global Governance, Demographic Change and Migration, Energy and Natural Resources, Global Security, Biodiversity, and Economic Globalization. The book’s primary focus is to provide a qualitative overview of the trends, and to analyze their intersections and interdependencies in the 21st century. The authors hope it will help define some of the complex challenges and exciting opportunities to shaping a world of sustainable economies and societies.

Perhaps most notably, the chapter on Global Security is written by none other than our own Ben Wittes.  Here’s an excerpt from Ben’s overview:

In this paper, I mean to focus on a single such problem: the proliferation of technologies that
increasingly puts the kind of destructive power traditionally limited to states into the
hands of ever-smaller groups. The second half of the 20th century saw a remarkable decline
in major state-to-state military confl icts. At fi rst, this was decline caused by nuclear
deterrence and the stability imposed by a world dominated by two superpowers and, later,
by the combination of a superpower security umbrella, globalization and worldwide economic
interdependence. Yet this trend coincided with an augmented ability of relatively
small, non-state groups to wage asymmetric confl icts against powerful states. The groups
in question have been growing smaller, more diffuse and looser-knit, while technology
has been both facilitating this development and dramatically increasing the ultimate lethality
of these groups.

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