How the US is seeing the future world is revealed in a recent report, Global Trends 2040: A More Contested World, published by the National Intelligence Council of the US. This report of political, social, and economic estimates is prepared through an integrated process for every incoming President of the USA. For Biden, the report was published in March this year.
The world, its politics, economics, and societies, are going to change under the forces stemmed in demographic modalities, environmental fluctuations, economic preferences, and technological transformations.
Read more: Power dynamics to shift in post-covid world
These together are going to impact societies, states, and international systems which would end in sketching five different futures of the world. Uncle Sam seems to be shaking the world, and this time even more intensely.
Changes in demographics and the environment
Starting off how the forces will interact and intersect, it all begins with the changes in demographics.
The developed economies are aging, bringing a slow global economic growth whereas the contracting working age will weigh on the economies of these developed countries as Japan and South Korea will reach the median age of 53 and Europe the median age of 47 by 2040.
On the other side, in developing countries, the converse will be happening as Sub Saharan Africa will reach median age of fewer than 15 years whereas Pakistan, Egypt, and Afghanistan will reach the median age of 30 years.
This seems like an opportunity but these economies will be challenged to meet the demands of the growing working-age populace due to the slow global economic growth which will be remaining constant, dragging the societies into social volatilities while testing the performances of states too.
The forces of the environment will leave no country unaffected especially the developing countries that lack adaptation skills and technologies.
The occurrence of heat waves, melting of the Arctic, land degradation, water misuses, food insecurity, loss of biodiversity, rising sea levels, and pollution will erode the ‘human security’ while affecting states and societies, politics, and economics coequally.
For curtailing environmental threats, countries may apply geoengineering by interacting with the natural system of the earth to counteract threats of climate change like releasing the sun’s energy back into space through Solar Radiations Management or Stratospheric Aerosol Injection spraying to cause global dimming.
The developed countries, especially the US and China, will see suspicions on sincerely working on environmental threats as this would require economic sacrifices.
Read more: Op-ed: Climate change cannot be denied
Will technology take over?
In the sphere of economics, the national debt management will push countries to avoid funding on the issues of the environment as they will already be pressed hard for matching the needs of the growing demands of their elderly and younger populations alike.
Covid 19 has already left indelible imprints on the economies of the world, especially the developing countries, two-fifths of which, according to the 2019 IMF assessment, were in debt distress.
Automation and rapidly growing AI will reduce 9 percent of global jobs and transform one-third by 2040, while at the same time, creating massive new technology and automation stemmed jobs which will test the states adaptability to maneuvering technology.
This will have a disproportionate effect across the countries and regions. The element of superstar firms, the new multinationals, will critically affect world economies and make definitive inroads in the affairs of politics.
The technological forces will surpass all other forces in intensity, especially with the significant rise of AI and Biotechnology. The US-China rivalry in this sphere will be rampant.
AI will disrupt the global current workforce while also creating new dimensions of labor, compelling the countries to remodel their working force structures. The application of AI in warfare will be on the rise and will be adding a new element to the geopolitical dynamics.
AI is well-positioned to fly and reach space which will turn space diplomacy into a new form and bring the two global rivals face to face. AI will siphon out the human element of emotions in making decisions having social effects.
China or the US?
As these forces interact, the world will see five possible scenarios in which the first three are prominent.
In the first scenario, it will be the US and allies-led democracy which will manipulate the world. Being democratic, there will be more space for innovation and the rise of technology with robust public-private partnerships will prosperously affect the economic growth of the countries.
This will enable the states to be responsive to their people’s needs while at the same time making adaptations, unlike in the repressive regimes of Russian and China whose policies will let them on a steady decline.
In the second scenario, it will be China which will be mastering the world arena but not exactly leading it due to its inherent repressive dynamics. This will happen on an account of the failure of international organizations with the least interest paid to them by the major powers.
The factors of the high national debt, the costs of caring for aging populations, and hazardous environmental occurrences will havoc states’ budgets and keep them away from spending on education, infrastructure, and scientific research.
In these circumstances due to the integrally centralist and controlled Chinese centralism, China will gain global attention through its global infrastructure packages and other initiatives. Many countries will thus tilt to the Chinese sidelines.
In the third effectual scenario, it will be a contested coexistence of the US and China that will emerge. This will be based on shared economic and growth preferences and agreements.
Much of what is stated in the report must be happening in the world ahead but much of what is left unstated is more critical. Summed up, there will be more instability, pandemics, economic recessions, state conflicts, and disorders in the five different worlds that lay ahead.
The author is a civil servant and socio-political analyst based in Quetta who works for the government of Baluchistan. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.