Mapping the Global Future: Report of the National Intelligence Council's 2020 Project

As Niels Bohr noted, prediction is difficult, especially about the future. That said, anyone seriously interested in what the world might look like 15 years down the road should mull this impressive report from the National Intelligence Council. In clear and lively prose, the report gives an excellent overview of expert conventional wisdom on the major trends shaping global politics and economics. It stresses the crucial importance of globalization as an "overarching 'mega-trend.'" It puts great emphasis on the rise of China and India as major global players, while forecasting the persistence of American military dominance. It sees great-power war as highly unlikely, but terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction as ongoing and perhaps deepening challenges. And it ponders the significance of a rise in identity politics and global religiosity. Readers will inevitably quibble over this or that specific point, the tone seems somewhat unnecessarily pessimistic, and the four fictional "scenarios" written to highlight alternative possible futures are gimmicky and unpersuasive. But in general the report is a first-rate piece of work. It should make a fine teaching tool and a useful spur to reflection.

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