The trends that define the immediate future are both complex and without precedent
Back in 1945, it was easy to predict the defining trends of the 20th century—an ideological, geopolitical, economic and possibly military battle between the only two behemoths. Those who attempted to predict this—including Hitler, George Kennan and Stalin’s paranoid self—largely got it right. But in today’s “post-American world”, with a rapidly ascending China, incremental inter-connectivity, regional instabilities and a crisis-struck global economy, is it possible to predict the dominating trends of 2030? The American National Intelligence Council has an interesting answer. Its latest report considers the managed decline of American influence, the consequent diffusion of power, the demographic challenges for both ageing and excessively young nations, empowered individuals and possible climate-change induced food and water shortages, as the defining features of the world in less than two decades from now.
And this may or may not be good news. The withdrawal of American influence, while favourable to nations that consider it to be “imperialist” (parts of Middle-East and Latin America), is sure to remove a cardinal balancer in the most “geopolitically unstable areas” of the world—East Asia. Demographic changes shall stump growth in economies with ageing populations (like in Japan) and (with the right policies) lead to booms in economies with youth bulges. Empowerment of individuals is sure to lead to a rise in transnational non-state actors and movements, much like Al Qaeda, whereas climate-change would lead to a geographical reality that few today can predict.
Such a complexity may confound the most avid student of history and will require some real statesmanship, by leaders all over, to be managed.