Global Trends 2030 learns from past mistakes

Eric Garland Uncategorized 2 Comments

Global-Trends-2030I’m kind of excited to see what becomes of the Global Trends 2030 project, an official futurist project run by the United States National Intelligence Council about the potential future scenarios for international security.

Global Trends 2025 absolutely sucked. It was the perfect expression of the idiot mindset of the Bush Administration, a small, scared waste of money that led me to write tear downs of our organizational ability for foresight and lose hope in the field (mostly).

A 2008 U.S. government report on “Future Trends 2025” made the following predictions: that the U.S. dollar might not be the world’s reserve currency forever, Iran would continue to be a rogue nation, China would have more economic power, Russia would be rife with corruption and organized crime, and oil would be replaced by some other magic, stable, powerful, liquid fuel for the world’s increasing fleet of cars and trucks. The report cost the U.S. government millions of dollars, all to produce a document that effectively predicted 2006, plus an extra pipedream forecast of getting out of the world’s peak oil predicament, supported by zero technological forecasts from experts in the field. It looked and smelled like strategic forecasting, but was carefully produced to keep from upsetting anyone with scary challenges to their assumptions about the future strategic position of the United States. This is the new business model for an intelligence industry that once lived to disrupt its customers’ thinking, not reassure it.

I had heard from colleagues working on Future Trends 2030 that this round of analysis would be different, better. For all my criticisms, I’m an optimist, so – sounds great! Believe it when I see it.

Today I happened across the Future Trends 2030 blog that keeps people up to date on progress (?) in a very open, engaging fashion and…holy moley! It looks like pretty good intellectual work!

Check out Will America Thrive? – which does not place American hegemony as a fait accompli:

At its very foundation, American security derives from its strength, which in turn derives from an economy that is robust and adaptive, a society in which mobility is possible and innovation is rewarded, and a shared commitment to justice that extends to all and unites the many in a common venture.  It derives from a sense of vitality and possibility that attracts both dollars and talent, and rewards exertion and ingenuity.  And it is nourished by a thirst for innovation that betters the lives of Americans but also serves the world.  Economic strength generates not only the resources but also the global connections and creative power that will enable the United States to confront the range of unexpected challenges it is likely to face in the future.  Many of these challenges are unpredictable, so the greatest protection against them is 1) strength 2) a dynamism that enables a people to believe that solutions are possible and 3) the agility and wisdom to use those assets well.

This strength and dynamism is in jeopardy.  America’s debt is crippling and, if not addressed, will constrain American options in the years ahead.  Military spending sustained at post-9/11 levels would divert minds and dollars from investments with greater potential to generate sustained economic power; meanwhile, the military acquisitions process is ossified and slow, forcing Americans to overpay for military capabilities, some of which quickly become outdated. Some entrepreneurs and scientists no longer consider America the land of greatest opportunity, and are lured abroad by better-funded laboratories and faster growing markets.  Social mobility in America is declining, and with it the meritocracy that challenges the system and undergirds the social contract in which achievement is rewarded handsomely but ultimately open to all.

Egads – it’s…critical thinking! Uncomfortable truths to face! A discussion of scenarios that aren’t uniformly positive for the United States! I think it might be real futures work, and it is presented in an open, social media friendly, less bureaucratic format.

Not a moment too soon.