NIC Report: Global Trends 2025 — Future Fact or Fiction?

By SHARON K. GILBERT
December 29, 2008

IT’S DIFFICULT TO KNOW how best to describe the most recent report coming out of the National Intelligence Council (NIC). On the one hand, this report goes directly to the movers and shakers who will shape our future through policy. On the other hand, it reads like a Hollywood treatment.

Maybe it’s the heavy use of graphics to demonstrate how the US will always remain the dominant world power, even in a future pool of global governance. Maybe it’s the juvenile scenarios from ‘the future’ that include a stereotypical Russian, a self-centered sitting US President, and constant hammering at how the US blew it by not taking the lead to fight global warming.

Remember, that this document purports to show us the world of 2025–warts and all. There’s a load of future science, including exoskeletons that make the wearer look like a cyberman from Dr. Who, and anti-aging–so-called ‘biogerontechnology’ that uses ‘real-time’ molecular sensors to slow down aging as well as diagnose-and-treat on the fly.

This future world is a ‘post-fossil fuel’ world, but I’ve yet to find any sustainable methodology for attaining such a goal within this document. There’s mention of better and more easily grown biofuels, and even algae farming, but why does no one consider using garbage? Ok, don’t get me started on that–but extracting hydrocarbons from garbage seems like a no-brainer to me.

Future tech included in the document:

• Ubiquitous Computing: This means RFID tags everywhere. Everything with which you and I interact will ‘talk’ to us and each other.

• Robotics: The robotics envisioned for 2025 include non-commercial applications using autonomous robots I can’t help thinking of the ‘Johnny Cabs’ in ‘Total Recall’, but a more ominous film reference is ‘I, Robot’.

• Strength Augmentation Technologies: Those exoskeletons I mentioned earlier come to play here. Want to be a transformer? Just slap on your exoskeleton! Of course, that lovely metal skin will be communicating to all the other computerized devices, and it’s likely that it will also interface with those biogerontechnology molecules.

I could go on and on, but instead, take an hour out this week to read the file yourselves. You can download a pdf copy here.

Although Global Trends 2025 bears a November 2008 release date, the graphics make it clear that the ‘visioning process’ began in 2005. Pay close attention to the ‘fictionalized scenarios’. The scenario called ‘A World without the West’ made me laugh right out loud, particularly when the Russian diplomat is telling his Chinese counterpart that the US blew it by pulling out of Afghanistan). The scenarios are loaded with such references to current policy, implying what must be done now to forestall an undesirable future. NIC’s hint to President Elect Obama: Stay in Afghanistan.

So far, I can only discern one paltry page outlining the effects of a global pandemic. Two scenarios mention an undersea New York, but just one little page comments on a health crisis. Odd. This one page slips in a devastating statistic however: Avian influenza would likely infect one third of the world population. I did not laugh when I read that.

I’ll likely be writing more about this 120 page goody. For now, I’ll let you peruse the pages on your own. Enjoy!

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