Intelligence

From the Chairman of the National Intelligence Council

Mapping the Global Future: Report of the National Intelligence Council's 2020 Project is the third unclassified report prepared by the National Intelligence Council (NIC) in recent years that takes a long-term view of the future. It offers a fresh look at how key global trends might develop over the next decade and a half to influence world events. Mindful that there are many possible "futures," our report offers a range of possibilities and potential discontinuities, as a way of opening our minds to developments we might otherwise miss.

As I used to say to my students at Princeton, linear analysis will get you a much-changed caterpillar, but it won't get you a butterfly. For that you need a leap of imagination. We hope this project, and the dialogue it stimulates, will help us make that leap-not to predict the world of 2020, which is clearly beyond our capacity-but to better prepare for the kinds of challenges that may lie ahead.

Mapping the Global Future builds upon methods used to develop our two earlier studies by employing a variety of innovative methodologies and approaches, including extensive consultations with a wide range of governmental and nongovernmental experts.

The Global Trends 2010 paper was derived from a series of conferences held in the Washington, DC area, attended by academic and business leaders who conferred with Intelligence Community experts. Produced in 1997, it was the centerpiece of numerous briefings to policymakers.

Global Trends 2015, an ambitious and ground-breaking effort, identified seven key drivers of global change: demographics, natural resources and the environment, science and technology, the global economy and globalization, national and international governance, future conflict, and the role of the United States. Produced in December 2000, it was based upon discussions between the National Intelligence Council and a broad array of nongovernmental specialists in the United States. GT 2015 received international attention and prompted a lively debate about the forces that will shape our world. We billed it as "a work in progress, a flexible framework for thinking about the future that we will update and revise as conditions evolve."

Mapping the Global Future picks up where Global Trends 2015 left off but differs from our earlier efforts in three principal respects:

We have consulted experts from around the world in a series of regional conferences to offer a truly global perspective. We organized conferences on five continents to solicit the views of foreign experts on the prospects for their regions over the next 15 years.

We have relied more on scenarios to try to capture how key trends might play out. Our earlier efforts focused on key trends that would impact regions and key countries of interest. The trends we highlight in this paper provide a point of departure for developing imaginative global scenarios that represent several plausible alternative futures.

We have developed an interactive Web site to facilitate an ongoing, global dialogue. The Web site also contains links to a wealth of data of interest to scholars and the general public.

The entire process, from start to finish, lasted about a year and involved more than a thousand people. We appreciate the time and effort that each contributed to Mapping the Global Future. The Methodology section of this report acknowledges the special contributions of individual scholars and organizations and the many conferences and symposia held in conjunction with the project. Within the NIC, Craig Gralley, Director of Strategic Plans and Outreach, deserves special mention for his management of the many dozens of conferences, workshops, and planning sessions associated with the project. Let me also extend special recognition to Mathew Burrows, Director of the NIC's Analysis and Production Staff, who with creativity and clarity brought together the disparate parts of the project into an elegant final draft. Elizabeth Arens and Russell Sniady, members of his staff, also made significant contributions.

I encourage readers to review the complete set of 2020 Project documents found on the National Intelligence Council's Web site, www.cia.gov/nic, and to explore the scenario simulations. We continue to see this project as a work in progress-a way of catalyzing an ongoing dialogue about the future at a time of great flux in world affairs.

 

Robert L. Hutchings



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