Rolling out the Red Carpet

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Up and coming Future

The trends on important issues shape the future. We can’t plan future unless we know how the wind is blowing. The human ecological footprint is still increasing despite progress made in technology and institutions. Many crucial sources are emptying or degrading, and many sinks are filling up or overflowing. We are much more pessimistic about the global future than we were in 1972.

Over the last three decades a major cultural shift has taken place in the attitudes of Western societies toward the future. Optimism has given way to a sense of ambiguity, which threatens to stifle hope at a personal as well as a social level.

The recent appearance and spread of bird flu across Asian poultry populations has raised concerns that a devastating new influenza pandemic is imminent. Should the bird flu virus evolve to a form that readily infects humans, widespread loss of life is predicted.

In the past three years, the essential ingredients for a global response have coalesced: cheaper drugs, high-level political will, new money to pay for treatment, and growing grassroots muscle to push government to follow through on its promises.

The masculinization of Asia's sex ratios is one of the overlooked megatrends of our time, a phenomenon that may very likely influence the course of national and perhaps even international politics in the 21st century.

In recent years, despite high rates of deforestation in many regions, progress in implementing sustainable forest management around the world has been steady and encouraging.

University communities are at the leading edge in transportation innovation, developing new approaches that may have broad application, from central cities to suburban corporate campuses.

For the overwhelming preponderance of human history, humans have lived in societies that were characterized by 80% continuities, 15% cycles, and only 5% novelties at best. Now the figures are reversed: 80% of our futures may be novel, 15% cyclical, and only 5% continuous with the past and present.

The human population is projected to grow from 6.4 billion as of mid-2004 to 7.9 billion in 2025 (24% growth) and 9.3% in 2050 (45% growth).

Fiscal pressures associated with aging societies are set to intensify over the next few years, and even more so beyond…deficits and debts are on an explosive path in most large OECD countries, as well as in many smaller ones.

Pervasive computing and documentation will ultimately make all things transparent in all public and private enterprises, with total transparency finally becoming international law in 15-20 years.

With 21st Century technology at everyone's fingertips, the general population will demand accurate 21st Century information about the economic systems that govern their lives. In the Information Society there will be no personal secrets – forget confidentiality. The money-economy will be brought up to date with the real-economy, the majority of people in the World, who are currently excluded, will be included in the money-economy, markets will be hugely enlarged and wealth creation will explode. Poverty will be all but abolished by 2021. If you think this is too fast, just remember using your first computer and the changes since then.

It is probable that, as of 2025, the North-South divide in the world-system will not be significantly reduced; indeed, it might be quite enlarged.

The dangers of global fascism cannot be discounted as imaginary or alarmist.

A few very large international corporations will increasingly dominate global markets in wood products. They will move toward fiber farms of intensively managed engineered trees grown on short rotations. These fiber farms "will certainly have the capacity to meet and grossly exceed global needs for bulk wood fiber for the next century."

The probability of another huge quake in the New Madrid Seismic Zone in Missouri, similar to the three quakes of 1811-1812, is roughly 20% between now and 2100. It could incur a cost of $1 trillion, probably bankrupting some state and local governments.

Some preferable futures for a better society or a better world offer exemplary visions worthy of consideration, such as: An ideal scenario for the 2005-2020 period, describing popular movements for peace, reform of the world monetary system, more equitable distribution of recourses, widespread government and corporate reform, etc.

Eradicating disconnectedness in the global economy is "the defining security task of our age…by expanding the connectivity of globalization, we increase peace and prosperity worldwide…making globalization truly global…(is) a future worth creating."

A new layer of governance is needed, but one that differs from the neo-conservative and hyper-liberal views. Emphasis is needed on enhancing community building and on a convergence of interests.

How to promote governance of weak states, improve their democratic legitimacy, and strengthen self-sustaining institutions…(is) the central project of contemporary international politics…because weak or failed states are the source of many of the world's most serious problems.

As soon as powerful personal computers enable every citizen, 90% of whom are innumerate, to count and to follow economic models, global transactions and added-value chains, the mysteries that surround profit and money will evaporate.

Investing in girl's education is "a strategy that will jump-start all other development goals." There is no tool for development that is more effective.

The concept of retirement is outdated and should be put out to pasture in favor of a more flexible approach to ongoing work—one that serves both employer and employee.

By 2021, most factories will be computer controlled automated facilities, many underground near to raw materials, that are switched on and off in response to just-in-time-stock control instructions, by managers perhaps living hundreds of kilometres from the factories.

The hurdles and barriers to these trends and forecasts are not technological nor are they commercial, the barriers are psychological and fiscal/political. The fiscal system is the last of the societal mechanisms to come in line with the rapid pace of change. The major challenges lie in the fiscal and political changes required to accommodate the irrepressible Information Society revolution. (