Global Trends 2030: top report from US intelligence

January 14, 2013

     By Duncan Green     

My inbox regularly receives the latest ‘global trends 20XX’ reports from thinktanks and futurologists, and a lot of them are pretty bland, and the scenarios they describe threadbare and unconvincing. The new ‘Global Trends 2030’ report from the US National Intelligence Council shares the usual flaws on its scenarios, and is understandably US-centric (the NIC is a US government body), but its description of trends feels spot on, albeit a bit cursory on climate change. In Rumsfeldian terms, it summarizes the known knowns – ‘megatrends’, reflecting underlying ‘tectonic shifts’, but adds in a discussion of known unknowns, both long-term processes  – ‘game changers’,  and (mainly negative) discrete events – ‘black swans’. But you can be pretty sure that Rumsfeld’s final category, unknown unknowns, will mess up this nice arrangement. Here are some of its summary tables:

Megatrends and Game Changers


Tectonic Shifts


Black Swans


The most novel aspect for me was the focus on the political implications of demographic transitions – NIC reckons aging populations will encourage liberalization and democracy, and reduce levels of conflict. Plausible given the age range of most fighters, but a bit reductionist?