Friday, January 22, 2010

The Next Ten Years

Curzon, of Coming Anarchy, has an interesting blog post entitled, Ahh, the Futility of Strategic Forecasting…, which details some of the trials and tribulations of trying to guess what sorts of challenges a nation-state may face several decades out. For example, he points out that:

1900 - If you had been a strategic analyst for the world’s leading power, you would have been British, looking warily at Britain’s age old enemy: France.
1910 - You would now be allied with France, and the enemy would now be Germany
1920 - Britain and its allies had won World War I, but now the British found themselves engaged in a naval race with its former allies the United States and Japan.
1930 - For the British, naval limitation treaties were in place, the Great Depression had started and defense planning for the next five years assumed a “ten year” rule—no war in ten years. British planners posited the main threats to the Empire as the Soviet Union and Japan, while Germany and Italy were either friendly or no threat.
1936 - A British planner would now posit three great threats: Italy, Japan, and the worst, a resurgent Germany, while little help could be expected from the United States.
1940 - The collapse of France in June left Britain alone in a seemingly hopeless war with Germany and Italy with a Japanese threat looming in the Pacific. America had only recently begun to scramble to rearm its military forces.
1950 - The United States was now the world’s greatest power, the atomic age had dawned, and a “police action” began in June in Korea that was to kill over 36,500 Americans, 58,000 South Koreans, nearly 3,000 Allied soldiers, 215,000 North Koreans, 400,000 Chinese, and 2,000,000 Korean civilians before a cease-fire brought an end to the fighting in 1953. The main opponent in the conflict would be China, America’s ally in the war against Japan.

With this challenge in mind, he asks C.A. readers to make predictions about the next ten years. And since nobody likes a wishy-washy visionary, here goes nothing:


By 2014, the American political system will face its Waterloo. Four or five weeks ago I would have suggested this involved the disillusion of the GOP, but after last Tuesday's vote in Massachusetts I'll say its a tossup about which party collapses over the next two election cycles. Frankly, if the Democrats can't pass ObamaCare with 60 votes in the senate, a huge majority in the house and control of the White House, they don't deserve to be a party anyway.

But the election of Scott Brown highlights another issue which the U.S. will have to wrestle with over the next 2 elections cycles - the need to have a super majority to do anything at all in the senate. We will face a "Waterloo" when some sort of crisis - be it natural disaster, terrorist attack or financial crisis - will expose the senate as a hollow organization. Should such a crisis happen - particularly if the crisis involves massive inflation or the U.S. defaulting on its debts, American may have no choice but to convene a new constitutional convention and design a parliamentary system.

On the other hand, a new national party, perhaps spurred on by the "Tea Parties" could help create a sustainable centrist coalition. The Tea Parties, as they stand today, lack any sort of coherent policy position beyond "cut spending," etc, but as either the Democrats or GOP collapse its possible talented politicians will move to a viable 3rd party.

By the election of 2020 statehood for at least 1 Caribbean country will be a major campaign issue.

By 2020 marijuana will be sold over the counter in 10 states.

By 2020 gay marriage will be legal in at least half of the U.S.  

U.S. Economics 

On the economic front, 2020 will see a implosion of the "healthcare bubble". By the middle of the next decade,  most Western nations will be in a panic over he increasing cost of providing medical care to their aging populations. But at the same time, genetic engineering, nano machines and improving CPU power will be working from the other directions, making diagnosis, prevention and treatment easier and cheaper. 2020 will be the year that healthcare costs actually level off as increased understanding of the human genome and a program called "Google Doctor" will create "predictive medicine", which will allow for the prevention of most serious and chronic illnesses through gene therapy and other extremely early interventions.

By 2015, more people will be sent into low Earth orbit by private companies than by governments. By 2020 a private company will place a lander on the moon and a major business publication will publish an article entitled "Who Owns the Moon?" as entrepreneurs begin to press for a renegotiation of the mid-20th century outer space treaty, which does not provide for the allocation of property rights in outer space. Ultimately, there will have to be a "Homestead Act" of the 21st century to settle the question of who owns celestial bodies, especially resource rich asteroids.

By 2020 the iLanguage 3.0 App for the IPhone X is going to change the world. iLanguage will be a program which can interpret any known language into any other known language instantly.

By 2020, a online program known as "Google Lawyer" will be able to pass a legal Turing Test, by automatically compiling a legal brief that is indistinguishable from a brief written by top lawyers.

Geo Politics

By 2020, the worlds great powers, including China, Japan, the E.U. and the U.S. will continue to have a generally amicable and constructive relationship as the amount of economic and cultural connectivity continues to increase. The U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the U.K. will have be economically connected to the point where a citizen of any one "Anglo-Sphere" nation will not need a visa to work or attend college in another.

In Europe and the Middle East, there will be much hand wringing over the large refugee camps that exist to house the several million survivors of the 2nd Russo-Iranian War (Also known as the Caucasus War of 2018 and the 3rd War of Soviet Reunification). The new secretary general of the U.N. will be elected on the promise to "finally de-radiate Moscow and Tehran" but he will privately admit that no one really knows how many years or how much money that project will take. Most serious observers will accept that large sections of both Iran and Russia will remain uninhabitable for maybe 100 years. 

Islamabad will be occupied by U.S., Afghan, E.U. and Chinese Peacekeepers whose job it will be to make sure the Indians keep their promise to leave Pashtunistan by 2025. 


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