Will global trends make us turn inward, lash out or work together?



Another day, another ballistic-missile test from North Korea. This got us looking for scenarios for how this all might play out.

The National Intelligence Council’s latest unclassified Global Trends report, issued every four years since 1997, includes a 2032 scenario in which a bomb does go off. “It took a mushroom cloud in a desert in South Asia to shake us from our complacency,” the fictitious president’s national security advisor reflects.

The report, Paradox of Progress, published early this year, examines a world in which powerful individuals and non-state actors are disrupting the state-centric global order, aided by advances in technology, creating echo chambers that in turn reinforce competing realities.

The Global Trends team interviewed 2,500 experts from 35 countries and distilled three potential scenarios –Islands, Orbits, and Communities — for the next 20 years. “Communities” is the most appealing version. In 2035, “the term ‘Free World’ now defines the networked group of state, substate, and non-state entities that work cooperatively to promote respect for individual freedoms, human rights, political reform, environmentally sustainable policies, free trade, and information transparency.”

As for the nuclear crisis in ”Orbits,” there was good news from 2032: “With China’s help, the United States quickly moved to defuse the crisis — we were lucky. The conflict barely missed escalating to a full nuclear exchange.

President Smith shared the Nobel Peace Prize with the President of China that year.” Read on, in this piece from the archives, by David Bank.

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