7 Revolutions Ahead

March 9, 2012 07:25 PM

Buckle up—here’s what you can expect by 2030

In an effort to be a catalyst for strategic thinking on long-term trends, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) created Seven Revolutions, a project that identifies the key policy challenges we will all wrestle with up to 2030 and beyond. Speaking at the recent Food and Agricultural Communications Symposium at the University of Illinois, Johanna Nesseth Tuttle, vice president for strategic planning at CSIS, shared the seven areas of change that she says are expected to be the most revolutionary.

  1. Population. In the next two decades, the lion’s share of the world’s population growth will occur in the developing world. The bulk of that growth will take place in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, two of the poorest and least stable parts of the world.

    By contrast, by 2030, barring massive immigration, about 20 Eastern European countries will see their population decline. Plus, 25% of the folks in Western Europe will be over the age of 65. Meanwhile, the mass movement from rural to urban settings continues at a brisk pace. By 2050, almost 70% of the world’s population will live in cities.
  2. Resource management. The spike in the world’s population puts immense pressure on food, water and energy—to the point of making many wonder if we have reached or surpassed the limits of sustainability.

    Right now, 65% of those who go to bed hungry live in one of seven countries. Biotechnology and the availabil-ity of water will both play a critical role in our ability to meet the world’s food needs in the future.

    "What is now a global water challenge will soon be a global water crisis," Nesseth Tuttle told the audience.

    We are currently using half of our readily available water supply. Of that amount, 22% is devoted to industry, 70% is used in agriculture and 8% goes to cities.
  3. Technology. Today’s computers are breaking performance records at an increasing rate. IBM’s Roadrunner achieves a computational capacity of 1.105 petaFLOPS (1,105 quadrillion calculations per second), making it one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world and the first to break the petaFLOPS barrier.

    Computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones are marching across every country. By the end of 2012, it is estimated, there will be an astounding 6 billion mobile phones, nearly one for every person.

    "Ray Kurzweil [futurist] says because of advances in computation we will witness 20,000 years of progress in this century," Nesseth Tuttle shared.
  4. Information. Geography is no longer a limiting factor in access to knowledge or information. With the advent of the Internet and mobile devices, information stretches to all corners of the world.

    For example, there are 2 billion web users in the world, with the biggest opportunity for new uses in Africa and Asia. This "knowledge-based" economy could someday lift countries from poverty. While online connectivity accelerates and data creation continues to increase rapidly, privacy and access issues will continue to grow more complex.

    As the information economy takes root, workers will be required to refine their skills and learn new ones to remain competitive, Nesseth Tuttle said. One startling prediction by the U.S. Department of Labor: those in the work force will have 10 to 14 major career changes by the age of 38! That means saying goodbye to the work force as we know it.
  5. Economics. It is likely that by 2030 the world will be more economically interdependent than it is today. Emerging nations will become bigger economic players in both production and consumption. Almost half of these projected emerging economies are in Asia, highlighting the global shift taking place as the G-7 economies’ net debt to gross domestic product ratio is expected to balloon to 200%.
  6. Security. Today’s security environment lacks the clarity that the world has previously witnessed. Conflict has shifted from predominantly interstate warfare to an intricate and convoluted web of transnational threats and actors.

    These new and atypical adversaries include non-state ideologues, rogue states and criminal syndicates that often collaborate in activities involving drugs, terrorism and human trafficking. In addition to these challenges, ominous threats exist which imperil global cyber- and health security.

    "Diseases historically kill more than wars," Nesseth Tuttle noted, adding that today’s diseases are spread much more quickly.
  7. Governance. Traditional government is changing as the number of influential nongovernmental organizations and private sector groups increase dramatically. Future world leaders will have to build more complex coalitions in order to succeed. As CSIS trustee Henry Kissinger once said, "There is a system of linkages that no previous generation has dealt with."

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