Fortune tellers

An alert reader points me to this interesting book, generated by a government agency called the National Intelligence Council. The authors deliver a sober assessment of where the world stands these days, and where it may be heading over the next two decades.

[W]e have identified five plausible, distinctive, and illustrative stories of the future. Each reflects the key themes of shared global challenges, fragmentation, disequilibrium, adaptation, and greater contestation. Three of the scenarios portray futures in which international challenges become incrementally more severe, and interactions are largely defined by the US-China rivalry. In Renaissance of Democracies, the United States leads a resurgence of democracies. In A World Adrift, China is the leading but not globally dominant state, and in Competitive Coexistence, the United States and China prosper and compete for leadership in a bifurcated world.

Two other scenarios depict more radical change. Both arise from particularly severe global discontinuities, and both defy assumptions about the global system. The US-China rivalry is less central in these scenarios because both states are forced to contend with larger, more severe global challenges and find that current structures are not matched to these challenges. Separate Silos portrays a world in which globalization has broken down, and economic and security blocs emerge to protect states from mounting threats. Tragedy and Mobilization is a story of bottom-up, revolutionary change on the heels of devastating global environmental crises.

It's not the most feel-good document that ever graced your coffee table, but it's worth perusing and thinking about.