Hats off to the National Intelligence Council for releasing Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World (this links to the PDF), the fourth iteration of an unclassified report takes a clear, long-term view of the future. A product of experts from all over the world, this report definitely makes for an interesting read.
Here are the highlights of the report, as culled from their executive summary. They consider these the relative certainties.
A global multipolar system is emerging with the rise of China, India, and others. The relative power of nonstate actors— businesses, tribes, religious organizations, and even criminal networks—also will increase.
By 2025 a single “international community” composed of nation-states will no longer exist. Power will be more dispersed with the newer players bringing new rules of the game while risks will increase that the traditional Western alliances will weaken. Rather than emulating Western models of political and economic development, more countries may be attracted to China’s alternative development model.
The unprecedented shift in relative wealth and economic power roughly from West to East now under way will continue.
As some countries become more invested in their economic well-being, incentives toward geopolitical stability could increase. However, the transfer is strengthening states like Russia that want to challenge the Western order.
The United States will remain the single most powerful country but will be less dominant.
Shrinking economic and military capabilities may force the US into a difficult set of tradeoffs between domestic versus foreign policy priorities.
Continued economic growth—coupled with 1.2 billion more people by 2025— will put pressure on energy, food, and water resources.
The pace of technological innovation will be key to outcomes during this period. All current technologies are inadequate for replacing traditional energy architecture on the scale needed.
The number of countries with youthful populations in the “arc of instability” will decrease, but the populations of several youth-bulge states are projected to remain on rapid growth trajectories.
Unless employment conditions change dramatically in parlous youth-bulge states such as Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Yemen, these countries will remain ripe for continued instability and state failure.
The potential for conflict will increase owing to rapid changes in parts of the greater Middle East and the spread of lethal capabilities.
The need for the US to act as regional balancer in the Middle East will increase, although other outside powers—Russia, China and India—will play greater roles than today.
Terrorism is unlikely to disappear by 2025, but its appeal could lessen if economic growth continues in the Middle East and youth unemployment is reduced. For those terrorists that are active the diffusion of technologies will put dangerous capabilities within their reach.
Opportunities for mass-casualty terrorist attacks using chemical, biological, or less likely, nuclear weapons will increase as technology diffuses and nuclear power (and possibly weapons) programs expand. The practical and psychological consequences of such attacks will intensify in an increasingly globalized world.
More uncertain would be the true impact of climate change, the democratization of Russia and China, and the greater militarization of Iran, among others. Read the full document here.