The world in 2030

Posted: December 14, 2012 in Innovation, International, World Trade

18 years might seem like a long way off, but then again, have you noticed how time flies these days. An organisation called the National Intelligence Council – it’s pretty important, it advises the US Director of National Intelligence – has been having a stab at what it thinks the world will look like in 2030.

It’s full of the usual stuff about the rise of China and India. It also talked about the rise of second tier countries; that’s the likes of Colombia, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, South Africa, Mexico, and Turkey. It reckons these countries combined will begin to surpass Europe, Russia and Japan in terms of economic might by 2030.

It also made forecasts about the rise of a global middle class. Predictions suggest that the world’s middle class will increase in size from around one billion to between two and three billion in 2030. Such a change will have all sorts of implications for companies that sell consumer products, cars, electronics, luxury brands, and for many of the more famous retailers.

But it was another prediction that seemed especially interesting.

The report said that power is set to shift to networks and what the report calls “coalitions in a multipolar world.”

The report said: “By 2030, no country—whether the US, China, or any other large country—will be a hegemonic power. Enabled by communications technologies, power almost certainly will shift more toward multifaceted and amorphous networks composed of state and non-state actors that will form to influence global policies on various issues. Leadership of such networks will be a function of position, enmeshment, diplomatic skill, and constructive demeanour. Networks will constrain policymakers because multiple players will be able to block policymakers’ actions at numerous points Although we believe that worldwide norms may converge toward greater democratic governance, tackling global challenges might become more vexing because of the multiplicity of actors, including non-state ones, and their dissimilar views.”

Or to put it another way, power may move away from the state to other groupings.

Who are these are groups? Well, the multinational company is one.

But it’s not all about the power of companies.

The Internet — and access to the Internet from smart phones in particular — is changing things in a quite profound way.

The Arab spring is an early example. Okay, there is no way of knowing how things will turn out. Will the Arab spring lead to a more democratic world, or make things worse? Who knows?

The National Intelligence Council suggested a key may be $12,000 a year. It said: “Historically, the rise of middle classes has led to populism and dictatorships as well as pressures for greater democracy. The value of $12,000 GDP per capita income is sometimes considered to be the level above which democracies do not revert to authoritarian systems.”

But the Internet and smart phones are great levellers. In Africa Internet access is growing at an extraordinary rate, and the use of smart phones is rising at a rate which is unprecedented.

The Internet gives people access to education that in times gone by would have been impossible.

Groups, and ideas and cultural identities are less likely to follow national boundaries.

The debate about China taking over from the West as the main focus of economic activity may be an irrelevance. In a globalised world glued together by the Internet, traditional national borders may have less meaning.

It can end in tears. Crowds can go mad. That is obvious. And if the world becomes one crowd, you don’t want it to go mad. The Internet may exaggerate different views, may create multinational networks of opinions and ideas. This may increase global tensions.

Or thanks to ideas hubs such as Ted, the Internet may have the effect of merging cultures, creating cross fertilisation.

Either way, watch the development of these so called “coalitions in a multipolar world.” They will define the course that history follows in this century.

See GLOBAL TRENDS 2030: ALTERNATIVE WORLDS, a publication of the National Intelligence Council

©2012 Investment and Business News.

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