The Norman Transcript

December 13, 2012

Anticipating world’s future

The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — When you get down to it, predictions about what will happen in the future are a dime a dozen.

Popularly, they range from the notion of a unified humanity found in the “Star Trek” science fiction sagas to the fear that time itself will end later this month based on an interpretation of ancient Mayan calendars.

On a more serious level are models of things to come that perhaps paint a gloomy picture of a world low on resources and struggling with the consequences of global warming. Or they may envision a scenario where humanity is uplifted by advancing technology and increased demands for freedom. But generally speaking, they indeed argue that humanity has a future, albeit one that’s a mixed bag.

This week, the National Intelligence Council issued its annual report of expectations for the future. Called “Global Trends 2030,” it’s based on the analysis provided by America’s various intelligence agencies, produced by gathering existing data, reviewing policies of governments around the world and extrapolating what’s known today into the future.

The result is interesting. In many ways, the world of 2030 will be decidedly different than it is today if intelligence agency predictions pan out. For one thing, the report envisions an America that’s energy independent. That’s a far cry from the current situation, where the United States remains heavily dependent on foreign oil.

How will this independence arise? From exploitation of shale gas. But for this to happen, many technological adjustments will be required. For instance, today’s gasoline engines would have to give way to ones powered by natural gas.

And what happens if America is no longer interested in the politics of various unstable regions where today’s oil is found? That alone could lead to dramatic changes in the international landscape, including a reduced need for an American military presence around the globe.

Significantly, this report expects Asia to surpass the West in economic activity. That’s hardly a surprise given current trends. But we note something similar was once predicted for Japan, and that country’s anticipated dominance went by the wayside.

That’s the problem with predictions: They never can take everything into account. And sometimes, unexpected events come into play.

For this reason, Global Trends offers different scenarios for the future, depending on a variety of factors. And while it anticipates a decline in Islamic radicalism, it sees instability elsewhere as shortages of water and other resources create conflicts in some parts of the globe.

This report, of course, is not merely idle speculation. Rather, it’s intended to assess the world in order to avoid some negative outcomes and mitigate others. To prevent problems, it’s essential to know that they lurk on the horizon.

— New Castle, Pa., News

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