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The latest Global Trends report is out.

Here are some of its predictions for 2025, with some comments.

A global multipolar system is emerging with the rise of China, India, and others. The relative power of nonstate actors—businesses, tribes, religious organizations, and even criminal networks—also will increase.

By 2025 a single "international community" composed of nation-states will no longer exist. Power will be more dispersed with the newer players bringing new rules of the game while risks will increase that the traditional Western alliances will weaken. Rather than emulating Western models of political and economic development, more countries may be attracted to China's alternative development model.

International legal institutions will weaken as the power of members with diverse ideological and political goals increases relative to that of the United States and the rest of the west. Consensus-based organizations (nearly all of them) will become paralyzed. As the still wealthier west finds itself increasingly outnumbered it will pull out of or subvert majoritarian institutions such as they are. Likely victims: the UN Security Council and General Assembly, the WTO, and the International Criminal Court. A "league of democracies," a "responsibility to protect" (civilian populations from genocide), and other fantasies that can be found in political discourse from time to time today will disappear entirely. Human rights norms, however, will expand to include prohibitions on defamation of religion and of ethnic groups.

Terrorism is unlikely to disappear by 2025, but its appeal could lessen if economic growth continues in the Middle East and youth unemployment is reduced. For those terrorists that are active the diffusion of technologies will put dangerous capabilities within their reach.

Opportunities for mass-casualty terrorist attacks using chemical, biological, or less likely, nuclear weapons will increase as technology diffuses and nuclear power (and possibly weapons) programs expand. The practical and psychological consequences of such attacks will intensify in an increasingly globalized world.

The early twenty-first century civil libertarian critique of government surveillance and detention activities will seem as eccentric in 2025 as the early nineteenth century critique of the national bank seems to us today.

wm13:
Wow. Not a good world for libertarians or small-d democrats.

Mind you, there is no reason to think this prediction is more reliable than "Dow 36,000."
11.21.2008 9:35am
Brian S:
I tend to look askance at any prediction that the power of the nation-state will diminish relative to non-state actors. Those predictions tend to arise from a sort of science-fictiony leftism that thinks that evil corporations are going to turn the world into a Bruce Sterling fantasy.

When the chips are down, the nation-state can squash non-state-actors like bugs - at will. The Russian oil industry and the US financial services industries should be illustrative examples.
11.21.2008 10:40am
Oren:
I disagree. The more tyrannical the rest of the world gets, the more we are reminded how important our freedoms are. That would be a first step towards not taking them for granted here at home.
11.21.2008 10:42am
MarkField (mail):
I agree with wm13 about the reliability of predictions like this. That said, people like Jack Balkin have been describing what they call the rise of the National Surveillance State for some time now, and it does seem that we're moving in that direction. The last sentence is consistent with that.
11.21.2008 10:45am
Randy R. (mail):
Corporations will increase in size and importance. They will certainly be all over the world, and there is no reason why Microsoft, for instance, has to remain a US based corporation. Look at Halliburton. With corporations being globally dominant, they will be more likely to call the shots and they have investments, jobs and money at risk. That doesn't mean they will always win or always be influential in every case, of course.
11.21.2008 10:47am
Bob from Ohio (mail):
The biggest weakness of this prediction is the "China’s alternative development model" idea. We really have no idea how this "model" will survive the current economic problems. This is the first time China is going to experience a severe recession since its growth started. We are already getting reports of mass factory closings and sharply higher unemployment. How the government and the people react to hard times is going to be interesting.

(The same can be said of course about the Western model but that model has some track record to look at and is at a much higher development point.)
11.21.2008 11:18am
JosephSlater (mail):
Predicting conditions 17 years out, eh? I wonder what folks in 1991 would have predicted for 2008? If I recall correctly, in 1991 I was just beginning to toy with this new thing called "e-mail" and "the internet" . . . .
11.21.2008 11:27am
Houston Lawyer:
Another repeat of the canard that poverty is somehow responsible for terrorism. Any group that is that clueless can easily be ignored.
11.21.2008 11:28am
JB:
I tend to look askance at any prediction that the power of the nation-state will diminish relative to non-state actors. Those predictions tend to arise from a sort of science-fictiony leftism that thinks that evil corporations are going to turn the world into a Bruce Sterling fantasy.


Then why haven't we captured OBL?

(obvious retort: We did squash Al-Qaeda like a bug, which is why despite the incompetence of the TSA and the insecurity of our ports we haven't been hit with another terror attack since 9/11).

But seriously, the War on Terror shows how some nonstate actors (specifically, those not relying on large physical installations and extensive capital holdings) can survive attempts by state actors to squish them.

The real question is, will developing nations come to look more like Poland, Somalia, Colombia, India, or China?
11.21.2008 11:34am
Robert Farrell (mail):

Wow. Not a good world for libertarians or small-d democrats.

Mind you, there is no reason to think this prediction is more reliable than "Dow 36,000."


Took the words right out of my mouth. Mistrust all "analysis" that begins with a complex set of long-term trends and ends with "and that is why the ideological positions which I already hold today will be proven self-evident in the future."
11.21.2008 11:36am
smitty1e:
@Oren

The more tyrannical the rest of the world gets, the more we are reminded how important our freedoms are. That would be a first step towards not taking them for granted here at home.

The more tyrannical the world gets, the more propaganda is published about how freedom from fear is more important than freedom of action.
Libertarian == "unfair", don't you know?
11.21.2008 11:40am
A.S.:
Mind you, there is no reason to think this prediction is more reliable than "Dow 36,000."

Well, I wonder how accurate these things are. Maybe they are complete guesses, but maybe not.

According to the Forward in this 2025 version, the first version was "Global Trends 2010". I wonder when that was published and, now that we are a mere 13 months or so away from 2010, what that document had to say.
11.21.2008 11:40am
Jerome Cole (mail) (www):
If China and India retain their current "crony capitalism" model they are doomed to failure. If they reform and offer their people genuine free-market economics that is unlikely to be a threat to the United States.
11.21.2008 11:40am
A. Zarkov (mail):
"Terrorism is unlikely to disappear by 2025, but its appeal could lessen if economic growth continues in the Middle East and youth unemployment is reduced."

This statement alone casts doubt on this report. Here we get the Eleanor Roosevelt model of the world-- every problem solution gets reduced to some version of a slum clearance program.

Besides as Yogi Berra said: "It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future."
11.21.2008 11:49am
Ben P:
RE: Zarkov and Houston Lawyer

Are you actually denying that poverty plays any role in the formation of Terrorist movements?

I specifically say movements because I'll freely admit that individual sociopaths can arise anywhere. But certain preconditions have to exist for those sociopaths, even the most charismatic of them, to gain a significant following within a society.

Like it or not there's a significant following in a great many middle eastern countries. I seriously doubt it's only because their religious leaders tell them something different than our religious leaders tell us. I don't personally know anyone that's ever had the urge to intentionally blow themselves up to further a cause.


I suspect you'd point out that the 9/11 Hijackers were not by in large completely poor. I'd say that's largely irrelevant. Individual poverty isn't the issue so much as a larger degree of poverty and or disparity of wealth. Lenin may or may not have simply been a power hungry sociopath, but without doubt some percentage of his followers were "true believers" they honestly believed creating a "communist society" was a goal worth killing and dying for. That requires more than just some crazy guy telling you that, it requires some sort of emotional trigger, which generally comes along with preconditions.
11.21.2008 12:21pm
Bpbatista (mail):
Aren't these the same people who said that Saddam having WMD was a "slam dunk"?

Also, to the extent this assessment is based on Global Warming, it is self-refuting.
11.21.2008 12:21pm
guy in the veal calf office (mail) (www):
As usual, science fiction is way ahead of the curve. For an interesting imagining of a world where the relative power of nonstate actors—businesses, tribes, religious organizations, and even [especially] criminal networks—also will increase [while] International legal institutions will weaken as the power of members with diverse ideological and political goals increases please read the 1995 debut of young Neal Stephenson: The Diamond Age: or A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer
11.21.2008 12:27pm
Tim (mail):
Didn't we have the "War to end All War's" 90 years ago?
11.21.2008 12:37pm
Jake LaRow (mail):
Ben P, Re: your comment

Came here to say THIS!

/leaving satisfied
11.21.2008 12:48pm
wooga:
Predicting conditions 17 years out, eh? I wonder what folks in 1991 would have predicted for 2008? If I recall correctly, in 1991 I was just beginning to toy with this new thing called "e-mail" and "the internet" . . . .

Yes, just imagine how much more advanced porn will be in another 17 years.
Terrorism is unlikely to disappear by 2025, but its appeal could lessen if economic growth continues in the Middle East and youth unemployment is reduced.

Ah ha! My prediction is that the next 17 years will give rise to militant porn cartels (a fusion of the Zionist military-industrial complex and western norms of Christo-fascist exploitation of wymen) that will displace the current middle-eastern political regimes. These cartels will provide an economic boom for the middle east, along with ready employment for misguided youth. Unfortunately, they will also be responsible for runaway global warming, because they will suppress production of cars which run on water (because that's what all evil corporations do, naturally).

My prediction is probably just as accurate as that from Global Trends, and only relies on some of the same leftist claptrap that's been recycled for the past 50 years or so.
11.21.2008 12:57pm
JB:
Poverty doesn't produce terrorism, failed states do. Failed states are closely correlated with poverty, because you can't get rich in a failed state except through massive corruption.

That's why Al Qaeda hung out in Afghanistan.
11.21.2008 1:04pm
Assistant Village Idiot (mail) (www):
A.S. - here's your link to Global Trends 2010 (which was published in 1997)
11.21.2008 1:07pm
Tolley Jenkins (mail):
They also predicted in 1985 that we'd have hoverboards by 2015.
11.21.2008 1:12pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Ben P:

"Are you actually denying that poverty plays any role in the formation of Terrorist movements?"

I'm saying that poverty's role is di minimus,and the studies I've seen seem to confirm that. The primary motivation is religious zealotry. Terrorism is a means to an end and that end is the spread and increase of power and influence of Islam, and a redress of grievances. Islam has always spread through the sword, and today is no different. We have been beat on for so long about poverty, that it has become difficult for many people to think in other terms.

Power, not slum clearance, was the primary motivation for Lenin and his followers. Look at his What is to be Done, how much talk about poverty do you see?
11.21.2008 1:18pm
Prof. S. (mail):
Tolley - that's a great point (except it was 1989). Not to mention flying cars. I do suspect that we will have 80's themed restaurants by then. Also, contrary to predictions otherwise, the weather guy is still nowhere near being accurate.
11.21.2008 1:58pm
Bob from Ohio (mail):

They also predicted in 1985 that we'd have hoverboards by 2015.


They still have 7 years to be right!
11.21.2008 2:06pm
Wahoowa:
Scanning the 2010 report, it's been reasonably accurate thus far. Aside from the usual futuristic, new-world-order-is-right-around-the-corner stuff about multinational corporations and the death of national sovereignty, most of the predictions seem to be playing out (and I imagine will continue to for the next year or two). Of course, the predictions are often so general that it's hard to fully evaluate the truth value--sort of like a newspaper horoscope.

Of course, if someone wants to read it more in-depth and finds a good knee slapper please point it out.
11.21.2008 2:10pm
Wahoowa:
Wait, I found one: "The next 15 years will witness the transformation of North Korea and resulting elimination of military tensions on the peninsula."
11.21.2008 2:17pm
Houston Lawyer:
There are all kinds of failed states on this planet with millions of malnourished people in them. The vast majority of these hell holes produce no terrorists. Terrorists are aligned with political movements. You will find next to zero correlation between the afluence of a society and its ability to produce terrorists.
11.21.2008 2:19pm
MCM (mail):
"I tend to look askance at any prediction that the power of the nation-state will diminish relative to non-state actors. Those predictions tend to arise from a sort of science-fictiony leftism that thinks that evil corporations are going to turn the world into a Bruce Sterling fantasy. "

Or the science-fictiony rightism that thinks that good corporations are going to turn the world into a Neal Stephenson fantasy.
11.21.2008 2:22pm
wooga:
Or the science-fictiony rightism that thinks that good corporations are going to turn the world into a Neal Stephenson fantasy.

I have not read any of his books, but will ramble about a point which may or may not be related. The right wing generally doesn't expect "good" corporations to do anything but make a profit for their shareholders. There is no desire on the non-neocon right for corporations to be either slaves of the state (fascism) or masters of the state (corporatism). Unlike the left, the right wing wants a "separation of board and state," if you will.
11.21.2008 2:57pm
Smokey:
Oren:
The more tyrannical the rest of the world gets, the more we are reminded how important our freedoms are. That would be a first step towards not taking them for granted here at home.
I sincerely hope you are correct about how important we consider our freedoms to be, Oren.

But when I hear the excited talk among the messiah's acolytes regarding their plans to institute a "fairness" [i.e., censorship] doctrine, which is fully intended to smother criticism of The One [by forcibly allowing the equivalent of site pests to jabber away on stations they didn't pay for]; and the newly resurrected talk about implementing the "fairness" doctrine's first cousin, Net Neutrality, I am less hopeful that our freedoms will be preserved.

Ah, well, the First Amendment has probably run its course anyway.
11.21.2008 3:03pm
Sagar:
is there anything in it about Global Warming or Climate Change? I was hoping for an intermediate milestone between now and 50 or 100 years into the future, when the ocean levels will rise and all that stuff ...
11.21.2008 3:22pm
Sagar:
page 52 provides a few predictions about Russia and Canada being the beneficiaries of "global warming" - no indication of a possible "cooling" or a new ice age!
11.21.2008 3:30pm
JB:
There are all kinds of failed states on this planet with millions of malnourished people in them. The vast majority of these hell holes produce no terrorists. Terrorists are aligned with political movements. You will find next to zero correlation between the afluence of a society and its ability to produce terrorists.

You have the causation backwards.

Few failed states produce terrorists, but few terrorist movements prosper without failed states to hole up in/launder money through.
11.21.2008 3:37pm
SupremacyClaus (mail) (www):
Very little has changed since 1990. Those changes are too great to take place in another 17 years. China and India's interests lay in US hegemony. They support it financially by buying its debt, to maintain its soft power.

If US power gets degraded, they get to face the tender mercies of Japan. The latter has changed its imperial soul only superficially. The current state of relations represents ingrained national interests and relations unchanged over 1000's of years of bitter, bloody history.
11.21.2008 3:53pm
JB:
SupremacyClaus,
Japan has sufficiently aged that it is importing Chinese labor. I don't think they're a martial threat to anyone.

In terms of capital, they could be dangerous, but the same is true given American hegemony.

You are right in a broader sense, though--by virtue of its location America is the perfect offshore balancer, as long as it's powerful enough, so nations seeking an offshore balancer will find it in their interests to prop America up. This was how we got to be allies with Middle Eastern countries to begin with--unlike Russia, we weren't going to invade and absorb them; unlike Britain and France, we weren't going to conquer and administer them.
11.21.2008 5:51pm
Robert WCR (mail):
Nation-states cannot squash non-state organizations if the organizations can massacre the army and police. The trends seem to be in that direction but for now, the nation-state is king.
11.21.2008 8:40pm
Hoosier:
I have a different reaction than many of my fellow VCers. But I am amazed that this study produced conclusions that are so bloody obvious. China and India will be more important; terrorism will still exist, and will a bad thing; WMD will be dangerous, especially if terrorist have them.

I could have done this by myself on a wet weekend.
11.21.2008 9:47pm
newpetrol (mail):
It's not fashionable to say, but the "Chinese Model" won't exist in 2025. We're a few years away from a China cataclysm, which will ultimately yield Democracy, but at a terrible human and economic cost.
11.21.2008 10:41pm
Hucbald (mail) (www):
Read the whole enchilada. They talk about problems associated with global warming, which means you can safely ignore everything else they say as well.
11.21.2008 10:53pm
David Warner:
Ben P,

"Are you actually denying that poverty plays any role in the formation of Terrorist movements?"

Pretty much. It's about (relative) status. Terrorists (and especially terrorist leaders) tend to be highly intelligent people who feel that their status is unjustly lower than their (self-assessed) abilities merit. They construct a scapegoat to blame for this gap, then attack it.

Domestically, see the Unabomber, Tim McVeigh, Eric Harris, et. al.

Internationally, many Al-Qaeda leaders are engineers, doctors, scientists, or, say, a scion of an incredibly rich family. Since they're stuck in backward societies, their intelligence doesn't bring them the status enjoyed by their counterparts in the West, and more problematically the status of their societies on the world stage is painfully lower than it once was.
11.21.2008 11:05pm
David Warner:
Hucbald,

"Read the whole enchilada. They talk about problems associated with global warming, which means you can safely ignore everything else they say as well."

Safe from what, exactly?

"Nothing is so rash as fear; its counsels very rarely put off, whilst they are always sure to aggravate the evils from which it would fly."

- Burke
11.21.2008 11:10pm
TyWebb:
Shorter Eric Posner:

Dr. Peter Venkman: This city is headed for a disaster of biblical proportions.
Mayor: What do you mean, "biblical"?
Dr Ray Stantz: What he means is Old Testament, Mr. Mayor, real wrath of God type stuff.
Dr. Peter Venkman: Exactly.
Dr Ray Stantz: Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling!
Dr. Egon Spengler: Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes...
Winston Zeddemore: The dead rising from the grave!
Dr. Peter Venkman: Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!
11.22.2008 1:59am
lucklucky (mail):
The litmus test is always in Economy. People forget that Democracy a civil liberties are not comon in most part of the world including Europe.
Russia, most of Europe and Japan are already having demographic troubles and problems will increase. With this bad we have worse with an increase in Government spending to almost 50% of economy in Western Countries (in short, from right to left in Power doesn´t matter all are socialists of some kind).
For this i expect that people start to realise the natural conflict that exist between Liberty and Democracy. I suspect in most advanced countries that issue will come and eventually even there will be a dictatorship that will have more economic freedom and even some liberties than a Democracy where from tobacco and all crazy regulation grow in endless level bureaucratic layers curtailing most of freedoms.

How much depends on other equation: How Democratic countries will fare Vs non Democratic ones.
There is no rule that says that Democratic countries will fare better than a non Democratic one. Don't let recent performance deceive you, most of non-democratic countries went for the most stupid and economic damaging ideology that ever existed: Communism and its variants so they failed and that is normal.Not forget that in past most countries were dicatorships with diverse degrees of economic freedoms and many flourished.

Due to current unfixable problems in Democratic countries : Demographics; Media bad quality; Government growth, general entitlement atitude of population; counter culture; destructive education with inevitable economic consequences i expect a big hit in Freedom/Democracy countries appeal.

Economic results will draw the appeal and if in some place "the trains run in time" there will be more than a Roosevelt and a Churchill to say good things about it...
11.22.2008 3:46am
American Psikhushka (mail):
David Warner-

(Disclaimer for Morons: This message is not defending islamic fundamentalist terrorists or any other terrorist organizations seeking the violent overthrow of the government of the United States.)

It's about (relative) status. Terrorists (and especially terrorist leaders) tend to be highly intelligent people who feel that their status is unjustly lower than their (self-assessed) abilities merit. They construct a scapegoat to blame for this gap, then attack it.

Not at all. There are numerous causes and reasons for terrorist actions. As well as there are numerous causes and reasons for legal political action like protesting, organizing, boycotting, litigation, lobbying, migration, etc.

In many cases terrorist action is a reaction to truly immoral and illegal criminality, aggression, and oppression. Take the run-up to the American Revolution. Or the run-up to the French Revolution. Or the resistance groups that sprung up in territory occupied by the Nazis or Imperial Japan during WWII.

Domestically, see the Unabomber, Tim McVeigh, Eric Harris, et. al.

Incorrect. You are mixing in things that really have nothing to do with terrorism.

The Unabomber was a kind of serial killer. Although there was some loose political reasoning attached, he was pretty much motivated by pathology.

Eric Harris was a school-shooting mass murderer, again motivated by pathology rather than politics of some kind.

Tim McVeigh was somewhat more politically motivated so he could be considered a terrorist. But it would seem that there was some pathology there as well. So he could be considered a terrorist. But then again he doesn't quite fit the model you lay out in the rest of your post either.

Internationally, many Al-Qaeda leaders are engineers, doctors, scientists, or, say, a scion of an incredibly rich family. Since they're stuck in backward societies, their intelligence doesn't bring them the status enjoyed by their counterparts in the West, and more problematically the status of their societies on the world stage is painfully lower than it once was.

Not at all. The islamic fundamentalists are a different bunch. OBL had tons of status before becoming involved in terrorism. (Note to Morons: I'm not defending Osama, I'm merely relaying the facts and some analysis.) Any way you slice it as a Muslim man he had plenty of status - wealthy, at least competent if not adept as an engineer and businessman, wives and children, apparently a strict practioner of his religion, etc. And with his wealth he could have gone anywhere in the world and been fairly high status. So he was not the "guy that didn't make it" he was the guy that made it, many times over. And other fundamentalists follow a similar pattern, they're not a bunch of guys that turned to terrorism because they "couldn't make it".

What motivates the relgious fundamentalists is, surprisingly, RELIGION. Osama isn't out there because he couldn't "make it", he's out there because of his religiously and politically motivated cause. And incidentally that is why some muslims respect him - he had all this wealth and status and he gave much of it up for his religious and political beliefs. (Again, not defending him, just stating the facts.)
11.22.2008 8:19am
WWJBD:
One word:

Quantum.
11.22.2008 10:13am
juris_imprudent (mail):
Those predictions [decline of the nation-state] tend to arise from a sort of science-fictiony leftism that thinks that evil corporations are going to turn the world into a Bruce Sterling fantasy.

Tend perhaps, but certainly not always. Peter Drucker has made the same prediction.
11.22.2008 4:21pm
juris_imprudent (mail):
I suspect you'd point out that the 9/11 Hijackers were not by in large completely poor. I'd say that's largely irrelevant.

Apparently evidence is irrelevant. Certainly some terror groups may arise out of impoverished populations, but poverty is not a prerequisite. Al Qaeda is largely a movement springing from Wahhabism - and poverty is neither a characteristic nor a concern of that.
11.22.2008 4:26pm
Ben P:
I'm simply not buying "muslims are crazy" as the sole reason for Terrorism.

If you irreverently distill it down into it's basic component, religion is when one person (a religious leader) tells another person what they ought to believe, and sometimes how they ought to act.

If a religious leader in America, even a popular and highly charismatic one were to tell people that religious duty involved the need for his followers to sacrifice their lives for a particular cause, he'd be marginalized and shunned. If here were particularly charismatic he might gain enough followers to be considered a cult.

In the Middle East Wahabism has gained a significant following, and created a significant class of people who accept or even support terrorism.


The difference isn't what the clerics are saying, but then what is it.
11.23.2008 11:43am
juris_imprudent (mail):
I'm simply not buying "muslims are crazy" as the sole reason for Terrorism.

But you would buy poverty as THE reason?

As for Americans doing the unimaginable under religious goading, I can only answer "Jonestown". That larger numbers don't do this is perhaps testament to our diversity.
11.23.2008 3:04pm
lucklucky (mail):
Terrorism happens by ideology, by a somehwat consistent narrative. People forget that in 15 years Hitler turned an general educated country into a majority of educated Nazis (Note:education is not a vaccine, mass movements like Nazism and Communism usually are impossible in backward country and there are infinite tales of simple peasants rebelling against those kind of movements).

It needs obviously a ideology and a narrative that says that it isn't unfair to kill civilians as the main terror tactic.
11.23.2008 4:53pm
David Warner:
Ben P.,

"If you irreverently distill it down into it's basic component, religion is when one person (a religious leader) tells another person what they ought to believe, and sometimes how they ought to act."

I see why you chose the second person for your "distillation", as you clearly have no first person experience with what religion is all about. Either that, or your still has given you some pretty potent moonshine and you're drunk.
11.23.2008 7:57pm

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